Pantry Staples: San Marzano Tomatoes
San Marzano tomatoes are simply the best tomatoes in the world. No joke! These prized Italian tomatoes are grown in the lush volcanic soil of Mt. Vesuvius. San Marzanos have a slender, oblong shape, vibrant red hue and beautiful balance of fresh, sweet and tart flavors. Their delicate, thick flesh contains fewer seeds and less water, making them ideal for simple tomato sauces, where their tremendous flavor can really shine.
However, due to their popularity and specialized growing conditions, there are many San Marzano imposters out there, so be sure to look for the D.O.P. (in English, the Protected Designation of Origin) seal on the label.
Naples, in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius
How to Spot an Authentic San Marzano Tomato
- Must be grown of San Marzano seeds in the region near Mt. Vesuvius, specifically the provinces of Naples, Salerno and Avellino, i.e. the Agro Nocerino-Sarnese.
- An elongated plum-tomato shape.
- A tender and meaty texture with minimal seeds and a skin that is easy to remove.
- A fresh tomato flavor that is low in acidity with a balanced bittersweet taste.
Things to Look For On Your Label:
- The label must state: “Pomodoro S. Marzano dell’Agro Nocerino-Sarnese”.
- Look for the ID number, assigned by the consortium to that tin, printed on location of the canning.
- Look for the D.O.P. seal and the seal of the consortium who regulates the D.O.P.
- San Marzano tomatoes must be sold whole, never crushed, diced or pulped.
- The body of a San Marzano must always be elongated, a true plum tomato.
Pizza Margherita: a San Marzano Specialty
The most famous Italian pizza recipe is straight from the city of Naples, home to the San Marzano tomato and a tribute to the flag of Italy with only three toppings: San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella, and fresh basil. The Margherita pizza is also a protected item, with pizzerias throughout Italy bearing a logo of verification that they follow the historical recipe.