You’ve heard us say it time and time again. To us, classic Italian cooking means taking great ingredients and not screwing them up. And one of the best ingredients can be yours, year-round, in a can. You’ve undoubtedly eaten Parmagiano Reggiano, probably nibbled on Proscutto di Parma, and may have had great, cold pressed extra virgin Italian Olive Oil. But the odds are that you don’t cook with DOP San Marzano tomatoes. And that’s a shame.
San Marzanos are long, thin tomatoes, with a thick wall of flesh and not as many seeds as a typical garden tomato. “DOP” San Marzano tomatoes are San Marzanos grown in a limited geographic area, just east of Naples in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius (“DOP” stands for “Denominazione d’ Origine Protetta” or, roughly, “Protected Designation of Origin.” It means that the product was grown or produced in the limited geographical area where the Italians believe is best for its production. And often that the product is produced in a certain way or to certain standards.)
For San Marzano tomatoes, the DOP designation means that they are grown in the volcanic soils of the Vesuvius region. That’s probably why they taste as good as they do. But whatever the reason, they’re certainly special. There’s a reason that the association which polices true Neapolitan pizza recommends the use of DOP San Marzano tomatoes.
One of the best ways to showcase the beauty of DOP San Marzano tomatoes is with Marcella Hazan’s classic tomato sauce recipe. Just place in a pan
- a 28 ounce can of tomatoes,
- a peeled onion cut in half,
- five tablespoons of butter, and
- salt to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon)
Simmer for 45 minutes, crushing the tomatoes with the back of a spoon as it cooks, and remove the onion at the end.
The resulting sauce is silky, smooth, sauce perfection, with a tomato flavor the memory of which will linger for hours. You might think there’s some alchemy involved in the process, but the reality is that DOP San Marzano tomatoes are simply that good. And hopefully, soon, they won’t be the best Italian food you’re not eating.