25 Smart Ways to Cook with Canned Tomatoes

Under normal circumstances, I keep a pretty lean pantry; these days, my pantry is significantly fuller. But, no matter what, I absolutely always have a couple of cans of tomatoes in stock — whole, diced, crushed, or all of the above. They make the many months when peak tomatoes aren’t in season a whole lot more tolerable.

If you have a can or two of tomatoes in your pantry right now, here are 25 smart ways to use them. If you don’t, next time you make a grocery run, be sure to toss a few cans in your cart.

It’s one of the most obvious ideas but arguably one of the best. Pretty much all chili recipes call for a can.

2. Stir up a quick pizza sauce.

3. Give grains more flavor.

Forgo water in place of canned tomatoes when cooking grains like rice, quinoa, and farro to give them extra flavor.

5. Jazz up frozen stuffed shells or manicotti.

Make an easy dinner by pouring a can over frozen stuffed shells or manicotti and toss the whole thing in the oven to cook.

7. Simmer with beans and cheese.

Make a pantry dinner by simmering a can of tomatoes with a can of beans and adding some cheese, if you have it. You’ll definitely want to eat this with crusty bread.

8. Add to mac and cheese.

Drain a can of diced tomatoes and stir them into boxed or homemade mac and cheese to jazz it up.

Pretend like you’re a kid again and make a big batch of sloppy Joes for the whole family.

Get a recipe: Quick & Easy Sloppy Joes

Cook meatballs right in a simmering pot of crushed tomatoes to instantly flavor the sauce and make something perfect for your spaghetti.

Broth is the usual cooking liquid to use when making risotto, but using canned tomatoes instead is an easy way to change it up.

Get a recipe: Sausage and Tomato Risotto

When in doubt, make a casserole, since a whole lot of recipes call for a can.

15. Make Marcella Hazan’s famous tomato sauce.

16. Make your own ketchup.

17. Make a dipping sauce for grilled cheese.

Simmer a small can of diced tomatoes or tomato sauce with a little fresh or powdered garlic until it reduces a bit and thickens. Then use it as a dip for grilled cheese.

A can of tomatoes in the pantry is an extra excuse to make meaty Bolognese sauce, in my opinion.

Get a recipe: Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce

20. Make chicken tikka masala.

21. Roast and pile on toast.

Drain a can of whole tomatoes, roast them in the oven until they’re nice and hot and caramelized, then pile them on toast for lunch or a light dinner.

22. Simmer with sausage and serve over polenta.

Cook a can of tomatoes with sausage and you have a simple ragu for creamy polenta.

23. Make a one-pot pasta.

Add a can of tomatoes the pot when braising meat to add flavor and substance as it cooks.

25. Use it for awesome homemade lasagna.