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San Marzano Tomatoes
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San Marzano tomatoes are an Italian variety celebrated by many top chefs as being the best sauce tomato in the world. They are bright red in color with an elongated shape, similar in appearance to a roma tomato but thinner with a more pointed tip. These meaty plum-type tomatoes have few seeds and are easy to peel, low in acid, and famous for their sweet, complex flavor. The vigorous indeterminate or vining tomato plants produce heavy clusters of the crack-resistant red fruit that keep well on the vine as well as in storage. The large, productive plants bear fruit all the way up until frost, and they require staking for support.
San Marzano tomatoes are available mid to late summer at local farmers markets, and can be found canned year-round.
San Marzano tomatoes are named for the town in which they are grown, San Marzano sul Sarno. Like all tomatoes, San Marzano tomatoes are a member of the Solanaceae or nighshade family and are botanically named Solanum lycopersicum, formerly Lycopersicon esculentum. They are further categorized as a plum-type tomato, also known as a paste, pear, processing, saladette, or sauce tomato.
An excellent source of vitamins A and C, tomatoes are low in calories, cholesterol-free, contain potassium and provide folate and fiber. Tomatoes are noted for containing the antioxidant compound lycopene, which may help protect against certain cancers and heart disease.
San Marzano tomatoes are ideal for making tomato sauces for pasta or pizza, and in fact are the only variety that can be used for a truly authentic Neapolitan pizza. Their elongated shape, minimal seeds, firm flesh, ease of peeling, and lower juice content all earn San Marzano the reputation as the best sauce tomato, and lend it to the canning process. In addition to canning, they are excellent for drying, chopping into salads or slicing onto sandwiches. San Marzano tomatoes pair extremely well with class Italian flavors like basil, and soft cheeses like Mozzarella. Slice thin, drizzle with olive oil and roast at a low temperature to make a sweet tomato topping for bread, or layer slices of San Marzano tomatoes with onion, garlic and basil and top with goat cheese for a savory tart.
Similar to French Champagne, there is a protected variety of San Marzano tomatoes that are grown under strict regulations, ensuring that only growers within a defined area who abide by precise farming and canning methods can sell tomatoes labeled as San Marzano. Valle del Sarno is the valley where the recognized and protected variety is grown, distinguished by its soil and temperate climate that combine to give the San Marzano its distinctive richness and deep flavor. Although the certified San Marzano tomatoes come from Italy and are only sold canned in the United States, there are other San Marzano varieties that are both grown and sold in the U.S.
San Marzano tomatoes originated near Naples, Italy where they thrive in the Mediterranean micro-climate of the Campania region and the nutrient rich volcanic soil from Mount Vesuvius. This region also has a very high water table, which ensures that the tomato plants have the necessary water supply. They’ve been commercially popular since around 1875 when the first cannery was built and canned San Marzanos could be shipped throughout Europe. Their popularity declined during the 1970s with the rise of hybridization, but by the 1990s they regained the spotlight with their desirable heirloom flavor. Traditionally all San Marzano tomatoes come from Italy, though there are varieties that are grown in the United States and Mexico that are classified as heirlooms.
Recipes that include San Marzano Tomatoes. One is easiest, three is harder.
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