Why do I always have cans of tomato sauce in the pantry?
Could it be because they're filled with the super-antioxidant lycopene?
Or, could it be that two of my favorite recipes call for it, and I've never taken the time to adjust the recipes to use other canned or homemade tomato products?
Hmmm, I think that's it.
After all, there's nothing you make with canned tomato sauce that you can't do with canned whole or crushed tomatoes — or, for that matter, with fresh tomatoes, if you're willing to put in the time to peel, seed, and cook them down. Tomato sauce in a can is peeled, seeded, cooked-down-until-thickened tomatoes, plus some salt and spices, usually added to a recipe to provide texture and a bit of flavor.
You can substitute an 8-ounce can of tomato sauce for 1 pound of cooked fresh tomatoes, or 1 cup of tomato puree, and the same can plus 1/4 cup water can replace a 10-ounce can of tomato soup, though I wouldn't recommend this (tomato soup is so easy to make from scratch).
Some ingredients I keep in the pantry not because I use them in a wide range of recipes, but because I use them over and over in the same one or two recipes. Tomato sauce in a can is one of those ingredients, and the recipes (jambalaya, and the shrimp dish below) are well worth the shelf space in my cupboard.
Cuban shrimp in savory sauce
Inspired by an amazing lobster dish I first tasted in Varadero, Cuba, and adapted from a recipe in A Taste of Old Cuba: More Than 150 Recipes for Delicious, Authentic, and Traditional Dishes by Maria Josefa O'Higgins. Serves 6 (with couscous, orzo or rice).
3 lbs large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
6 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp sugar
8 oz tomato sauce
1/4 tsp Tabasco or other hot sauce, or more to taste
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
If using frozen shrimp, defrost under cold running water. Fresh shrimp may need to be peeled and deveined.
In a large pan on top of the stove, heat the oil over medium-high heat, and sauté the onions and green pepper for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients except the shrimp, cover the pot, turn the heat to low, and cook for 20 minutes. Add the shrimp, cover, and cook over low heat for 6-8 minutes until shrimp are just cooked through. Turn off heat and set aside until ready to serve with hot rice.
For fun, cook the rice with half chicken broth and half water. Add a pinch of turmeric for yellow rice; add saffron for a more luxurious yellow rice. Black beans also makes a great accompaniment for this dish.
NOTE: If you have extra sauce, keep it in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can add more shrimp, or diced chicken breast, or scallops, and make a second meal. The sauce will get better and better.
Other recipes that use tomato sauce:
Cuban style lengua de res, from The Masa Assassin
Penne pasta with meat sauce, from Simply Recipes
Sausage and basil marinara, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Heart healthy pasta with quick tomato sauce, from Christine Cooks
Orzo cooked in tomato sauce (manestra), from Mama's Taverna
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