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Are they all they’re cracked up to be?
It depends; if you use real San Marzano tomatoes, then yes: they are intense and creamy and rich and make a difference in what you are cooking.
I recently made a spectacularly rich penne all’arrabbiata using very rich San Marzano-style tomatoes.
Otherwise the plum-style tomato from Italy is the victim of knock-offs and out-and-out food fraud.
Authentic San Marzano tomatoes will be labelled with D.O.P. — an Italian law (Denominazione di Origine Protetta; literally, “Protected Designation of Origin”) that signifies and protects the tomato origin. These tomatoes must be grown in Sarno Valley when they can be designated as Pomodoro San Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino.
San Marzano tomatoes often come from Italy, but they are grown in several other countries. For instance, you’ll find San Marzano-type plum tomatoes grown in Leamington, Ontario.
But when it comes to countries, we shouldn’t forget that the tomato is a new world plant: likely originating on the west coast of South America, the word tomato derives from the Aztec terms that means “plump fruit.”
And that’s what you want in a good tomato, no matter where it comes from.
Closer to home, the popular Graffiti Market in the Catalyst-137 campus uses D.O.P. San Marzano tomatoes for their excellent, cheesy Detroit-style pizza (pictured below) and pasta dishes.