Thursday, September 25, 2008

San Marzano Tomato Sauce

Last night, I made myself a simple Italian fest—Fusilli noodles covered with San Marzano tomato sauce. I was recently introduced to canned San Marzano tomatoes through a friend of a friend. They are a variety of plum tomatoes that are considered by many chefs to be the best sauce tomatoes in the world.

The story goes that the first seed of the San Marzano tomato came to Campania in 1770, as a gift from the Kingdom of Peru to the Kingdom of Naples, and that it was planted in the area that corresponds to the present commune of San Marzano. They come from a small town of the same name near Naples, Italy, and were first grown in volcanic soil in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. The volcanic soil is believed to act as a filter for water impurities. Compared to the Roma Tomatoes with which most people are familiar, Marzano tomatoes are thinner and pointier in shape. The flesh is much thicker with fewer seeds, and the taste is much stronger, more sweet and less acidic. Many people describe the taste as bittersweet, like high-quality chocolate. Because of their high quality and origins near Naples, San Marzano tomatoes have been designated as the only tomatoes that can be used for true Neapolitan Pizza.

I had been looking for a can of San Marzano “Whole Peeled Tomatoes” for a few months with no luck. They seem to only be sold at speciality food markets. Finally, over the weekend I found them at a small market in Door County for $3.99 per can, and so I stocked up with four. Last night, using the simple recipe featured on the back of the can, I whipped up a batch of tomato sauce. In addition to the tomatoes, sauce ingredients include butter, a small onion, and salt and pepper. I also added some fresh basil from my garden. The sauce was incredible. It was thick and chunky, and the flavor simple, yet complex. Definitely puts jarred varieties to shame. The small amout of work required is well worth the taste.

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