WHY DO I NEED THEM?
Big flavor. If you want it in your sauces, ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby. Hand crushing your own large, peeled canned tomatoes lets you lose the hard bits of the stem and the tops and pick a “grind” that works for any recipe. They are the base of my marinara sauce, pizza sauce, and much more.
WHAT DO THEY DO?
San Marzano tomatoes will up your food’s A-game. Tomatoes are a tough thing if you don’t grow your own. In the US, store-bought are usually shipped green and gassed locally to turn them red. Even the “vine ripened” are shipped with the vines on them, and ripened in transit, not on the bush.
Canned peeled tomatoes, particularly tomatoes, grown in San Marzano are a great compromise. Picked at their ripeness cooked and canned, they offer maximum flavor. Fresh tomatoes rock in salsas and ceviches, and, if you grow your own, and can bring that “day of” flavor to your food, by all means, use them.
If you don’t grow, though, this your best bet because all peeled tomatoes, even all San Marzanos are not created equal. The tomatoes grown outside of Valle del Sarno lack the conditions that make them special.
Some producers pick their tomatoes a bit green too. That leaves hard tops that are very fibrous and tough that have to be removed. Some sneak in tomato sauce to make the can look more robust and save money by putting in fewer peeled tomatoes.
You can tell a good can when you open it. The tomatoes in their own juice won’t be heavy in sauce, but a medium-dense juice. Cento’s organic doesn’t cut those corners.
Cento is one of the best brands, San Marzano is one of the best tomato-producing regions in the world, and now they have an organic certified tomato?
Italian “plum” tomatoes are ideal for making sauces, putting in soups, stews, etc. Roma tomatoes are the most common fresh, but, watery and seedy, they are not ideal at all, even if you grow your own. San Marzano tomatoes are longer and thinner. Their flesh is thick with few seeds. The taste? Richer, sweeter and less acidic.
TRADITIONALLY USED IN
- Marinara sauce
- Pizza sauce (The only allowed for true Neopolitan pizza)
- Cajun dishes
A FEW RIFFS
- Ragoût Thiam – My fusion of Italian and Senegalese cuisines in a peanut flour/mint infused meatball in a tomato-okra ragoût.
- Jazz Chef 101 Marinara – My basic marinara and pizza sauce that’s easy and so tasty
- Smoked Tomato Rice – A wondah downundah base for Australian lobster tails or scallops
Cento is the only American brand that owns a production facility in Sarnese Nocerino, ground zero of Italy’s famed San Marzano tomatoes. The area’s ideal climate, rich volcanic soil, with its high water table turn out amazing tomatoes.
There are a number of producers of San Marzano tomatoes. Cento’s regular tomatoes, found as a staple at Costco, are very good, and a definite three diamond nod. These organic tomatoes, though? They bring Cento up to four diamonds, because of their quality and organic food safety.
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