Don’t Let Summer Pass Without Making Stewed Tomatoes

BY Patty Catalano TIMEAugust 3, 2022 PRINT

In the summer when the markets are overflowing with fresh tomatoes, I pick the plumpest beefsteak varieties. I slice and stack them in a BLT, layer them with fresh mozzarella to compose a classic caprese salad, or blend them into a fresh salsa for snacking. I also always reserve a few for stewed tomatoes—and you should, too.

Homemade stewed tomatoes are slow-cooked until tender, soft, and silky. They’re infused with fresh basil and sweetened ever-so-slightly to bring out their flavor. Here’s how to make stewed tomatoes at home.

What Are Stewed Tomatoes?

Stewed tomatoes are peeled tomatoes that have been slow-cooked and seasoned with basil and sugar. As a result, these tomatoes are slightly sweeter with a more dynamic flavor than the classic canned variety. Bell pepper is an optional ingredient here and can be added for flavor and texture.

The Difference Between Diced and Stewed Tomatoes

Diced tomatoes are canned tomatoes that have been diced via a machine and canned in tomato juice or purée. Calcium chloride or citric acid are often added to canned diced tomatoes to help the tomatoes maintain their shape, and as a result it may take longer for this style of canned tomato to soften or break down.

Stewed tomatoes are whole tomatoes that are slow-cooked in a Dutch oven, and seasoned with salt, sugar, and fresh basil. Bell pepper may also be included.

What Can I Make With Stewed Tomatoes?

Although stewed tomatoes are delicious as is, it’s a very versatile ingredient too. Use stewed tomatoes in practically any recipe that calls for a can of whole, crushed, or diced tomatoes.

  • As a base for shakshuka.
  • In minestrone soup.
  • As a poaching liquid for fish.
  • In chili.
  • In tikka masala.

How to Preserve Stewed Tomatoes

Canning tomatoes requires extra equipment (a pressure canner for lower-acid tomatoes or a traditional water bath set-up if the acid levels are higher). That’s why I freeze stewed tomatoes during the peak picking season instead. Once the tomatoes have simmered and stewed, transfer them to a bowl set inside an ice bath. Stir occasionally until the stewed tomatoes are completely cool.

Transfer the tomatoes to freezer-safe zip-top bags or containers. Make sure to press out extra air or leave headspace depending on the storage style you choose. Freeze, making sure to lay zip-top bags flat, until frozen solid. Use within three months for best flavor and texture.

Stewed Tomatoes

Makes 4 cups

3 pounds (3 to 4) large beefsteak tomatoes

1 medium bell pepper (optional)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil

3/4 teaspoon granulated sugar, plus more as needed

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

1 large sprig fresh basil

1. Bring a large pot or Dutch oven of water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and cold water. Cut the core from 3 pounds beefsteak tomatoes. Slice a shallow “X” in the stem end of the tomatoes. Core and dice 1 medium bell pepper if using.

2. Carefully add the tomatoes to the boiling water. Boil until the skins wrinkle and split, 45 to 60 seconds. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the tomatoes to the ice water bath. When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, transfer them to a cutting board. Use your fingers or a paring knife to remove and discard the tomato skins. Coarsely chop the tomatoes into 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces.

3. Drain the hot water from the pot. Add the tomatoes, bell pepper, 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon granulated sugar, and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt to the now-empty pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low to maintain a simmer and cook until the tomatoes and bell pepper are soft and tender and the juices have thickened slightly, about 30 minutes.

4. Add 1 large fresh basil sprig and cook for 10 more minutes. Taste and season with more kosher salt or granulated sugar as needed. Remove and discard the basil.

Recipe note: Stewed tomatoes can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to five days.

Patty Catalano is a contributor to, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking. Submit any comments or questions to Copyright 2022 Apartment Therapy. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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