You can use any tomato for making a sauce, but starting with paste tomatoes means less time reducing them down on the stove. Paste tomatoes have a denser, drier flesh and fewer seeds, making them meaty, thick, and ready to turn into a rich sauce.
The texture is only half the battle, though. You also want flavor. Some paste tomatoes, unfortunately, can be bland. Others are flavorful enough to do double duty as fresh eating tomatoes.
Here are nine sauce-worthy paste tomatoes to try in your garden.
01 of 09
This is a popular heirloom favorite with seed savers. It’s similar to a ‘Roma,’ with more fresh flavor. The juicy fruits can be plum-shaped, or lean more toward oxheart, and plump up to a decent eight to 12 ounces. ’Amish Paste’ was selected for the Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste. (Indeterminate, 80 to 85 days)
02 of 09
Black Prince heirloom is a good choice for gardeners in cool climates. It has a long harvest season, with roundish three- to five-ounce fruits that fill out to about three inches around. It's nice fresh or processed. The seed was difficult to find, but its popularity has made them more available. (Indeterminate, 70 to 85 days)
03 of 09
It’s always fun to make a sauce out of a non-red tomato and watch the faces at the dinner table. ‘Italian Gold’ is a compact plant with clusters of five-ounce pear-shaped fruits. The fruits are high in pectin, which makes them nice and thick for canning or freezing. They also have a subtle fruity taste you’d expect from a yellow tomato. (Determinate, 75 to 80 days)
04 of 09
This is a Polish heirloom that was given to tomato guru Carolyn Male by a coworker. They're set huge clusters of three- to four-inch dense and flavorful fruits, which tend to stress the plants and cause the foliage to decline. Don't worry; they will hold on as the fruits slowly ripen in succession on the vine. (Indeterminate, 85 days)Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
Another Polish heirloom tomato that deserves praise is the sausage-shaped 'Polish Linguisa.' It produces abundant 10-ounce tomatoes that are high in sugar. The flesh is dense but less firm than many paste tomatoes. The flavor is very good, but the big surprise here is how prolific the plants are. (Indeterminate, 75 days)
06 of 09
'Principe Borghese' is an odd little tomato with extremely dry, dense flesh. Because of its low water content, 'Principe Borghese' is often billed as being perfect for drying while still on the vine. Although this tomato does indeed dry beautifully, gardeners in humid areas should not attempt to let them dry on their own. They will mold before they dry. However, it does make a flavorful paste tomato. You'll need several plants, because the fruits, although plentiful, are only a couple of inches long. (Determinate, 75 to 80 days)
07 of 09
Considered the classic paste tomato, even the canned varieties are popular with picky chefs. To be an authentic 'San Marzano,' the tomato has to be grown in San Marzano (the same way sparkling wine can only be called Champagne if it’s grown in the Champagne region of France). In its namesake town, the plants are grown in volcanic soil, which keeps the acid level low. Cans of authentic 'San Marzano' tomatoes will be labeled with a Denominazione d' Origine Protetta (DOP). You might not have those growing conditions, but 'San Marzano' is still a great paste tomato, with dense, almost dry, sweet fruits that grow to about 3 1/2 inches long. Low on water and seeds, it does not take long to reduce into a thick sauce. It's very productive, with some disease resistance. (Indeterminate, 80 days)
08 of 09
This is another compact plant with high yields. The fruits are small, two to three ounces, but come in clusters of five or more. ‘Saucy’ was bred at Oregon State University by Dr. James Bagget from a cross with 'Roma.' It has meaty flesh, but with a classic tomato flavor. There’s enough juice to use saucy fresh, in something such as salsa. It mixes well without falling apart. It also has good disease resistance. (Determinate, 70 to 80 days)Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
Tip for Using Indeterminate Sauce Tomatoes
As paste tomatoes ripen, put them in freezer bags and toss them in the freezer. At the end of the season, when it’s not so hot in the kitchen, thaw them out and make all the sauce at once. The skins pull right off, and any excess water is left in the bags. Use the leftover tomato water to make vegetable stock.