*written by Cecelia Schmitt, Dietetic Intern from University of Michigian
Reduce time and labor of putzing with fresh tomatoes for homemade sauces or soups and opt for canned tomatoes! Your Dietitian’s Choice this week is Del Monte® canned tomatoes, 4 for $5.00 on select varieties, from October 28th to November 3rd!

What Are Tomatoes?

There are over 4,000 varieties of tomatoes, which have different sizes, shapes, colors and flavors. The tomato is a berry of the nightshade family, which includes potatoes, eggplants, and peppers. Tomatoes get their color from the antioxidant pigment called “Lycopene”. It is also found in watermelon and pink grapefruit!  Tomatoes are found frequently at the dinner table, even when you don’t think about them. Tomatoes can be served raw or cooked, pickled, dried, juice, canned, and as ketchup!
Tomatoes come in all different shapes and sizes! Grape tomatoes are small, crisp, crunchy and versatile. Cherry tomatoes are bigger and sweeter but are often used in similar recipes. They both are juicy and sweet, great additions for salads and sandwiches. Roma tomatoes are full of flavor and commonly found in stews, sauces or tomatoe paste.  Red beef steak tomatoes are large and meaty, idea for fresh sauces and dips (like salsa!).
Fruit or Vegetable?
The question of if tomatoes are fruits or vegetables has actually been debated in the Supreme Court! That’s right, back in 1893, the Nix vs Hedden case put the question to the judges to decide as it changed the outcome of certain taxes and tariffs on produce. Although the Supreme Court ruled that tomatoes should be considered a vegetable, depending on who you ask (and why!) you will likely get a different answer. According to botanists, tomatoes would be considered a fruit, based on their physiological characteristics and structure. Tomatoes are seed-bearing products that grow from the ovary of a flowering plant, which would make them fruits! According to botanists, a vegetable would include other edible aspects of plants, like roots stems and leaves.

If you ask a culinary professional (or registered dietitian!), tomatoes would be considered a vegetable. They have a tougher texture, taster blander, and are often founds in dishes like stews, stir-fries or soups. Culinarily speaking, fruits have a soft texture and tend to be sweet or tart, enjoyed in desserts, jams, or raw.

Although they review a lot less attention, there are other botanically speaking fruits that are often thought of as vegetables. Consider cucumbers, squashes, zucchini and peppers — they all have seeds! 

Storing and Usage

Picking out a mealy, mushy or bland tomato can be SO disappointing — but we are here to help! 
When you can and it’s available, try to find local tomatoes. When tomatoes don’t have to travel as far, they can ripen on their vine rather than in the back of a truck. Next, be sure to hold the tomatoes without squeezing them. Larger tomatoes should feel heavy for their size without being solid or soft, but smaller tomatoes should be firm but not hard. Avoid tomatoes that have pale spots near the stem or any that have large cracks or bruises. Also, try smelling your tomato! If you are not getting much from the tomato, it’s probably underripe. Look for a tomato that smells floral and almost basil-y.

Nutritional Benefits

Tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C, which helps the body absorb iron needed for red blood cell production. Potassium also helps to regulate blood pressure and can be found in tomatoes too! They also are loaded with a substance called lycopene, an antioxidant that helps promote immune health, lower LDL, and reduce the risk of cancer. Lycopene is a fat-soluble compound, meaning that eating it with fat increases its absorption in the body. Its bioavailability can also be affected by the processing of tomatoes, where canned tomatoes have almost twice as much available lycopene than fresh!

Italian Sausage Rigatoni with Spicy
​Cream Sauce

By Andrew Akhaphong, Mackenthun’s Fine Foods Registered & Licensed Dietitian
Adapted from ​https://spicysouthernkitchen.com/italian-sausage-rigatoni-with-spicy-cream-sauce/



  • 12 ounces Rigatoni pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pound ground Italian sausage Remove from casings if in casings, use either sweet or spicy
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup frozen green peas
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 fresh basil, minced


  1. Heat olive oil in a large pan and cook onion until it starts to soften. Add sausage, and break it into pieces with a wooden spoon as it cooks.
  2. When sausage is no longer pink, add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Drain off any excess fat.
  3. Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, peas, salt, red pepper flakes, and black pepper and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and place drained pasta in a large bowl.
  5. Add cream and simmer another 5 minutes, Turn heat to low and stir in Parmesan cheese and basil.
  6. Pour sauce over pasta and toss to coat. Serve.