How did anyone cook before canned tomatoes came along? They're an indispensable ingredient in our pantry. Here are a few reasons why we love them -- and, of course, a bushel of top-rated recipes using delicious, nutritious canned tomatoes.

Photo by Meredith

1. Good canned tomatoes are picked and packaged at peak freshness.

So they're often tastier than the sad, juiceless things we find in markets most of the year. Cook with canned tomatoes, and you can savor summer year-round.

Bow Ties with Sausage Tomatoes and Cream | Photo by Elijah

2. Tomatoes are loaded with healthy stuff.

In addition to vitamins A and C and folic acid, tomatoes have as much fiber as a slice of whole-wheat bread. Best of all, their cancer-fighting properties are enhanced by cooking. Forget "an apple a day!"

Easy Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce | Photo by LilSnoo

3. Canned tomatoes are a terrific starter ingredient.

Cook onions and garlic in olive oil, then toss in red pepper flakes and tomatoes for a simple but scrumptious pasta sauce that's ready in minutes.

Pasta Pomodoro | Photo by MidwestMom

Here's a great trick for cutting up whole canned tomatoes. Use kitchen shears and snip them while they're still in the can. It's quick and less messy.

Photo by Meredith

VIDEO: How to Make Tomato Sauce

See how to make Chef John's all-purpose tomato sauce. His all-purpose sauce calls for 2 (28 ounce) cans of peeled San Marzano tomatoes. Give 'em a nice slow simmer, and you're in the sauce. Check out the three basic styles of homemade tomato sauces.

Get the recipe for Chef John's Tomato Sauce.

See our collection of Canned Tomato Recipes.