When it comes to pantry staples, canned tomatoes always seem to make it into the top 10. Chefs, bloggers, and home cooks agree it’s a kitchen essential, but how exactly do they transform something so simple into a drool worthy meal? Fortunately, it’s not that hard, and in many cases you can get away without a recipe. We’re diving into five of the simplest ways to dress up this foodie favorite, so your pantry will be ready the next time hunger strikes.

To get prepared, look for 28-ounce sized cans of whole or crushed tomatoes in their juices, and aim for varieties without a lot of added salt or flavors (all the easier to add your own seasonings). If you can find San Marzano tomatoes, pick those up, as they are particularly flavorful and great for cooking.

1. Pizza Sauce: We can’t stand store-bought pizza sauce that’s loaded with sugar. The easiest way to avoid it is to make your own. Sauté some finely chopped onions, garlic, chili pepper flakes, and herbs in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add your tomatoes and simmer for about 30 minutes, and then mash or purée until you reach your desired consistency. Use this recipe if you need a guide. (via Little Spice Jar)

2. Eggs in Purgatory: This classic Italian dish calls for you to cook your eggs in a bath of saucy tomatoes and spices. We love this version with sausage, smoked paprika, and lots of fresh herbs. (via Averie Cooks)

3. Pasta Sauce: For the world’s easiest pantry meal, look no further. If you’re armed with canned tomatoes, it only takes a few cloves of garlic and some salt and pepper, and you’re ready to throw on the pasta. Of course, we’re happy to add a fifth ingredient for the sake of this luscious butter tomato sauce. (via Budget Bytes)

4. Chicken Tikka Masala: Like so many delicious dishes, Tikka Masala begins with a well-seasoned tomato sauce. Start off by cooking a mixture of aromatics and spices in some ghee or clarified butter, add your tomatoes, and finish with a generous amount of cream or coconut milk. Chicken gets charred separately and then added into the sauce. If you’ve never made Tikka Masala before, this simple and straightforward recipe is a great place to start. (via The Healthy Foodie)

5. Tomato Soup: It doesn’t get easier than this. Cook tomatoes and onions in butter, add some water or chicken stock, and blend it up. We suggest you also fill your fridge with the fixings for grilled cheese, because this soup is just begging for it. Check out this recipe for an easy step-by-step outline. (via Inspired Taste)

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