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Tomato sauce (Recipe: Cuban shrimp in savory sauce) {gluten-free}

Cuban shrimp

Why do I always have cans of tomato sauce in the pantry?

I dunno.

Could it be because they're filled with the super-antioxidant lycopene?


Or, could it be that two of my favorite recipes call for it, and I've never taken the time to adjust the recipes to use other canned or homemade tomato products?

Hmmm, I think that's it.

After all, there's nothing you make with canned tomato sauce that you can't do with canned whole or crushed tomatoes — or, for that matter, with fresh tomatoes, if you're willing to put in the time to peel, seed, and cook them down. Tomato sauce in a can is peeled, seeded, cooked-down-until-thickened tomatoes, plus some salt and spices, usually added to a recipe to provide texture and a bit of flavor.

Tomato sauce

You can substitute an 8-ounce can of tomato sauce for 1 pound of cooked fresh tomatoes, or 1 cup of tomato puree, and the same can plus 1/4 cup water can replace a 10-ounce can of tomato soup, though I wouldn't recommend this (tomato soup is so easy to make from scratch).

Some ingredients I keep in the pantry not because I use them in a wide range of recipes, but because I use them over and over in the same one or two recipes. Tomato sauce in a can is one of those ingredients, and the recipes (jambalaya, and the shrimp dish below) are well worth the shelf space in my cupboard.


Cuban shrimp in savory sauce

Inspired by an amazing lobster dish I first tasted in Varadero, Cuba, and adapted from a recipe in A Taste of Old Cuba: More Than 150 Recipes for Delicious, Authentic, and Traditional Dishes by Maria Josefa O'Higgins. Serves 6 (with couscous, orzo or rice).


3 lbs large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
6 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp sugar
8 oz tomato sauce
1/4 tsp Tabasco or other hot sauce, or more to taste
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


If using frozen shrimp, defrost under cold running water. Fresh shrimp may need to be peeled and deveined.

In a large pan on top of the stove, heat the oil over medium-high heat, and sauté the onions and green pepper for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients except the shrimp, cover the pot, turn the heat to low, and cook for 20 minutes. Add the shrimp, cover, and cook over low heat for 6-8 minutes until shrimp are just cooked through. Turn off heat and set aside until ready to serve with hot rice.

For fun, cook the rice with half chicken broth and half water. Add a pinch of turmeric for yellow rice; add saffron for a more luxurious yellow rice. Black beans also makes a great accompaniment for this dish.

NOTE: If you have extra sauce, keep it in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can add more shrimp, or diced chicken breast, or scallops, and make a second meal. The sauce will get better and better.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Tex-Mex salsa
One-one-one spaghetti sauce
Backyard barbecue sauce
Chicken and shrimp jambalaya
Lentils and brown rice

Other recipes that use tomato sauce:
Cuban style lengua de res, from The Masa Assassin
Penne pasta with meat sauce, from Simply Recipes
Sausage and basil marinara, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Heart healthy pasta with quick tomato sauce, from Christine Cooks
Orzo cooked in tomato sauce (manestra), from Mama's Taverna

Cuban savory shrimp, served over orzo or rice. #glutenfree

Need more creative ideas for using tomatoes all year round? Get 25 Tomatoes, my e-book packed with fantastic recipes, full-color photos and a fun video tutorial. With the FREE Kindle Reading app, delicious tomato recipes will always be just one click away on any computer, tablet or smart phone. Click here to learn more.

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


I used to feel like I was failing my "back to earth, don't eat processed foods if you can avoid them, blah, blah blah" hertitage by using canned tomato sauce. After learning how to make Lydia's rockin' jambalaya in a Ninecooks class I have become a convert to "a can of tomato sauce in the pantry." Thank you Lydia for helping me get over my some of my food snob hang ups! Who says good things don't come in a can?

Canned tomato products are a life-saver! I love using fresh tomatoes when they are in season, but I am so grateful for canned tomatoes during the off-season. Your Cuban Shrimp recipe looks amazing and I can't wait to try it! Maybe this weekend? Hmmm, I think so!

I can not wait to make this! It looks absolutely delicious! And like you I also have tons of canned tomatoes in my pantry :) I figure it's one of those ingredients where it's good to have, just in case. :D

"Cuban Shrimp" was part of the first amazing meal I had chez Lydia and Ted. I can still recall the entire menu too! This is a lovely simple recipe and we've made it many, many times with yellow rice and black beans too.

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