San Marzano Tomatoes: The Red Gold of Naples, Now on Your Homemade Pizza

By: the PROs

San Marzano Tomatoes: The Red Gold of Naples, Now on Your Homemade Pizza

Welcome, dear tomato aficionados and pizza lovers alike, to the world of the illustrious San Marzano tomato. Ah, the San Marzano, the Scarlett Johansson of the tomato realm – beautiful, versatile, and always stealing the spotlight in every dish it graces.

Picture this: You’re perusing the aisles of your local market when a can catch your eye. It’s labeled ‘San Marzano’ and, for a moment, you’re transported to an Italian nonna’s kitchen, the air filled with the smell of simmering sauce. Intrigued, you wonder, “What’s the big deal about these tomatoes? And why does it sound like the lead singer of an indie rock band?”

Well, my friend, fasten your seatbelt because you’re about to dive headfirst into the saucy, tantalizing world of San Marzano tomatoes. Prepare to uncover the secrets of this pizza superstar, its illustrious history, and why chefs worldwide have fallen head over heels for this crimson delight. And no, despite its glamorous name, it hasn’t released a platinum record… yet.

History and Origin of San Marzano Tomatoes

Now, let’s stroll down memory lane, returning to the humble beginnings of our beloved San Marzano tomato. Its story begins, unsurprisingly, in Italy – not in a flashy, Vespa-ridden city like Rome or Milan, but in a small, charming town called – you guessed it – San Marzano sul Sarno, nestled in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius.

These tomatoes, my friend, aren’t just Italian; they’re Neapolitan, with the same birth certificate as Sophia Loren and the Margherita pizza. They started their journey in the fertile volcanic soil of Campania, a region famous for its agricultural prowess, where even the humblest of vegetables seem to develop star quality.

The San Marzano tomato first saw the light of day in the 18th century, a product of a royal gift from the Kingdom of Peru to the Kingdom of Naples. That’s right, a royal gift, because even back then, they knew that tomatoes are the royalty of the vegetable kingdom. Technically, they’re a fruit, but we don’t want to upset the cucumbers.

And the name? Well, it’s as simple as a tomato soup recipe. The San Marzano tomatoes are named after their town of origin, San Marzano sul Sarno. No fancy focus group or million-dollar marketing campaign here, just good old geographical pride.

By the way, if you ever find yourself on a trivia night needing to name an Italian DOP product (that’s Denominazione di Origine Protetta or Protected Designation of Origin), throw “San Marzano tomatoes” into the ring. Just like Champagne in France, true San Marzano tomatoes can only come from a specific geographic area. The more you know, eh?

Why San Marzano Tomatoes Are Special

Now, onto the meat of the matter, or should we say, the pulp of the tomato. What makes the San Marzano so special? Is it the alluring name? The Italian heritage? Or is it just having a good PR agent? Well, it’s a bit more complex and flavorful than that.

Firstly, let’s talk about taste. Imagine biting into a tomato that has the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity, a tomato that carries a deep, rich flavor that seems to sing an Italian aria in your mouth. That, my friend, is a San Marzano tomato. Its taste is often described as less acidic and sweeter than other tomatoes, but there’s an umami depth there too. It’s like the difference between watching your favorite movie on a regular TV and watching it in 4K on a home cinema screen.

Now, let’s discuss texture. These tomatoes are firm, meaty, and less seedy than your typical garden variety. And no, by ‘less seedy’ we don’t mean they hang out in better neighborhoods. This means they have fewer seeds, making them less watery and more suited to creating thick, luscious sauces. It’s like they went to finishing school and majored in ‘Sauce Making 101.’

When you compare them to other tomatoes, it’s like comparing a luxury sedan to a compact car. Sure, they’ll get you from point A to point B, but one does it with much more style and comfort. San Marzano tomatoes are longer, thinner, and more pointed than other plum tomatoes, and they boast a unique, bright red color that would make even a fire truck blush.

In short, San Marzano tomatoes are the secret weapon you didn’t know your kitchen needed. They’re the culinary equivalent of having George Clooney at your dinner party – they just make everything better. And the best part? They won’t steal your spotlight; they’ll just add a charming, flavorful twist to your dishes.

Now, who’s ready to cook?

san marzano tomatoes fun fact infographic

Cultivation and Harvest of San Marzano Tomatoes

So, you’ve fallen for the allure of the San Marzano, and who could blame you? You’re now thinking, “How do I grow these crimson delights?” Don’t worry, my friend; cultivating these Italian gems isn’t as hard as pronouncing “gnocchi” correctly on the first try.

First things first, San Marzano tomatoes, much like a sunbathing tourist, love the sun. They need about six to eight hours of sunlight daily, so find a sunny spot for them. They’re also quite the social butterflies, preferring to grow in groups. Planting them in rows about 90 cm apart will give them the company they crave and the space they need.

san marzano tomatoes on plant

The soil is also important. Remember their origin? The volcanic, mineral-rich soils of San Marzano sul Sarno? Try to emulate this at home. A well-draining soil, rich in organic matter, is what they love. If you can get volcanic loam, great! If not, don’t worry; a good quality potting mix enriched with compost will work just fine.

As for watering, these tomatoes like a drink but don’t enjoy sitting in water. Picture them as the guests at your dinner party who love a glass of wine but wouldn’t want to swim in a pool of Merlot. Water them regularly, but ensure the soil doesn’t become waterlogged.

Now, let’s talk harvest time. The best time to harvest San Marzano tomatoes is when they’re fully ripe, which is typically late summer. But how do you know when they’re ripe? They’ll be a vivid red color, firm to the touch, but not too hard. They’ll also detach from the vine quite easily. It’s like they’re saying, “I’m ready; pick me!”

The method of harvesting is easy: simply grasp the ripe tomato firmly but gently and give it a little twist. It should come right off the vine. Be careful not to squeeze too hard; remember, these are tomatoes, not stress balls.

So there you have it, your quick guide to growing and harvesting San Marzano tomatoes. Just remember, as with all things worth doing, it requires patience, care, and love. After all, you’re not just growing tomatoes but cultivating a piece of Italian culinary history. Bellissimo!

San Marzano Tomatoes in Pizza Making

Ah, the moment we’ve all been waiting for – San Marzano tomatoes on the big pizza stage. You might ask, “Why are these elongated red celebrities the go-to for pizza making?” The answer, my friend, lies in their unforgettable flavor and texture.

San Marzano tomatoes perfectly balance sweetness and acidity to the pizza party. Their low water content and high flesh ratio mean less watery sauce and more concentrated flavor. It’s like they attended a pizza prep school and graduated at the top of their class.

But they don’t stop at just being a great base. Their robust, complex flavor adds a depth that takes your pizza from “this is good” to “I think I’ve just seen the face of God in this slice.” They are the secret ingredient, the X-factor, the Mick Jagger of pizza toppings, if you will.

Neapolitan pizza with fresh mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes
True Neapolitan Pizza with Fresh Mozzarella and San Marzano Tomatoes

Now, onto the secrets of maximizing their flavor in pizza sauce. First off, less is more. San Marzano tomatoes have such a unique, rich flavor that they don’t require much seasoning. A bit of salt, a touch of fresh basil, and maybe a smidge of garlic are all you need. And remember, always add any herbs at the end of the cooking process to keep their flavor fresh and vibrant.

Another secret is time. The longer you let the sauce simmer, the more the flavors will meld together and the more the natural sugars in the tomatoes will caramelize, resulting in a deeper, more complex flavor. It’s like a good friendship; the more time you invest, the richer it becomes.

And last but not least, if you’re using canned San Marzanos – a great option, don’t drain the juice. That liquid gold is packed with flavor and can be used to adjust the thickness of your sauce.

So, remember to invite San Marzano to the party next time you’re making pizza. They’re sure to steal the show with their sweet, tangy flavor and smooth texture. Now, who’s hungry?

Myths and Misconceptions About San Marzano Tomatoes

Before we wrap this tomato tale up, let’s squash some myths and misconceptions circling around our star, the San Marzano tomato. Like any celebrity, these tomatoes have their fair share of rumors swirling around them.

First off, the “All San Marzano tomatoes come from Italy” myth. While it’s true that the original, DOP-certified San Marzano tomatoes are Italian, and only those grown in the volcanic soil of the Sarno River valley can wear the DOP badge, many reputable growers worldwide produce high-quality San Marzano-style tomatoes. So, if you see a can at your local store, it may not be an Italian jet-setter, but it can still give your sauce that red-carpet flavor.

Another common myth is the “San Marzano tomatoes are always canned” misconception. Yes, you’ll most often find them in cans, especially outside Italy, because their peak ripeness is so fleeting that canning them is the best way to capture and preserve their exquisite flavor. But fresh San Marzano tomatoes exist and are a treat worth seeking. Remember, they’re not vampires; they don’t live exclusively in dark, sealed containers.

And finally, the “San Marzano tomatoes are expensive, so they’re not worth it” myth. While they might be a little pricier than your average tomato, think of them as an investment in flavor. You wouldn’t skimp on a good wine for a special dinner, would you? The same goes for these tomatoes. They’re the VIP guest that elevates your dish from delightful to unforgettable.

When it comes to achieving the authentic and rich flavors of traditional Italian pizza, one brand stands out above the rest: Cento, known for its exceptional San Marzano tomatoes.

The Last Slice

Now, let’s wrap this up in a nice, tomato-red bow. San Marzano tomatoes are more than just a variety of tomatoes; they’re a culinary treasure with a rich history, a unique flavor, and an unparalleled texture. They’ve taken the pizza world by storm, lending their sweet, tangy charm to sauces across the globe.

In the grand opera that is pizza making, San Marzano tomatoes are the diva, the star that shines the brightest and leaves the audience begging for an encore. They’re the secret ingredient that whispers, “This, my friend, is what a pizza should taste like.”

So, the next time you’re in the kitchen, about to embark on a pizza-making journey, remember to roll out the red carpet for San Marzano tomatoes. They may not come with an entourage or demand their own dressing room, but they’ll certainly give a performance that will steal your heart… and your taste buds!

And who knows, with enough practice, you might just become the Spielberg of pizza making, directing your ingredients to create a masterpiece worthy of an Oscar… or at least, a satisfied smile from your guests.

Now, that’s what we call a delicious ending!


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