San Marzano tomatoes

Anyone who reads up on Italian cooking sooner or later comes across a mention of San Marzano tomatoes.    

San Marzano Tomatoes

San Marzano’s are an heirloom variety of plum tomato revered for their outstanding flavor fresh or in sauces.  The San Marzano designation on commercial products is a European Union D.O.P (denominazione di origine protetta or Protected Designation of Origin) limited to tomatoes of the variety grown in a specific area outside of Naples, Italy.  

Canned San Marzano’s bring a premium price, even from the mainstream purveyors like Cento.  Taste tests we’ve done over the past year or so repeatedly demonstrate the superior flavor of this specific type of tomato.

Wandering through the Trenton Farmers’ Market one day last week, I noticed baskets labeled “San Marzano” and couldn’t resist.  Now, I completely understand that they can’t be real San Marzano’s in the sense of the D.O.P because they were not grown in the volcanic soils of southern Italy.  But I had to take a shot anyway.

Ann and I did a little taste test comparing the local San Marzano’s with an Early Girl (a fairly common and popular globe-type tomato) from a vine struggling through this hot, dry summer in my garden.  The San Marzano was noticeably sweeter, without the pronounced acid bite finish of the Early Girl.   My overall impression is that the local San Marzano is ok, but lacked some of the flavor punch of the real ones grown and processed in Italy.  If I were prone to putting up my own tomato sauce for the winter, I might add some of the locally grown San Marzano’s into the batch with the ubiquitous Roma variety of plum tomatoes, but I doubt I would spend the extra couple of bucks per basket to use them exclusively.

What I did do with some of the San Marzano’s I bought at the market was make a fresh tomato “sauce” inspired by one Scott Conant discussed on the radio a couple of weeks ago.

  • 7 ripe plum type tomatoes
  • 3 ounces fresh mozzarella
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1 pound penne pasta

Cut the tomatoes into a ½ inch dice and place in large bowl.  Cut mozzarella into roughly ½ inch cubes and add to tomatoes in bowl.  Tear the basil leaves by hand and add to bowl. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle olive oil over.  Toss and let sit at room temperature while you prepare the pasta.

Diced tomatoes, basil and mozzarella

Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water per package directions.  When al dente, drain and add to bowl with tomato, cheese, basil mixture.  Toss. 

Penne tossed with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella

Serve.

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One Response to “San Marzano tomatoes”

  1. Grilled Eggplant Parmesan « Dj'eat? Says:

    […] pounds of ripe plum-type (Roma, San Marzano, etc.) […]

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