Some Italians still can their own tomatoes, but most people buy them in cans in the store. There’s a debate whether fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes are best for making tomato sauce/gravy. Most Italians prefer to use canned tomatoes. Even food writer and Italian food expert Arthur Schwartz notes that Italians prefer canned tomatoes because they taste better.
What is it used for? Italians keep a variety of canned tomato products in their pantry: crushed, peeled, strained, diced, tomato sauce, tomato puree. Each of these is a different product. Canned peeled or crushed tomatoes are used for making tomato sauce/gravy. You can crush the whole tomatoes by hand or just used crushed tomatoes. Crushed are what we use most. For a lighter sauce (i.e. not the standard tomato sauce/gravy), you can use tomato sauce. (An example is my eggs and sauce dish.) For a thicker sauce or as a tomato paste, you can use tomato puree or strained tomatoes. The tomatoes can be used in soups as well.
–Dina Di Maio