What Are San Marzano Tomatoes?


Celia asks: In one of your recipes you said that if I’m going to use canned tomatoes, I should buy Italian San Marzano tomatoes. What’s so special about them?

San Marzano Tomatoes: Why are these so special? http://mamashighstrung.com/blog/2014/07/what-are-san-marzano-tomatoes/

In my recipe for Easy Homemade Tomato Sauce, I suggested that you buy canned Italian San Marzano tomatoes because they deliver a tangy, bright flavor… far superior to many other canned tomatoes. But what are San Marzano tomatoes?

San Marzano tomatoes are basically plum tomatoes with a lush, elegant flesh; they are grown in Italy’s southern Sarno River Valley. The tomatoes stay on the vine longer than many other varieties, which gives them a sweeter, less acidic taste.

They also have thinner skins with fewer seeds, so you have a firm, but supple bite, even after cooking them for a long time, like in my Homemade Tomato Sauce.

If you want to make sure the canned tomatoes you are buying are REAL San Marzanos, look for the Italian D.O.P. (or Denominazione di Origine Protetta) designation on the can. This means that the Italian tomato famers followed specific government agricultural rules. You can (sort of) equate these rules to the USDA regulations regarding products that can and cannot use the USDA Organic Seal.

Italian San Marzano tomatoes do have their detractors, so you’ll need to conduct your own taste test. If you can’t find real Italian San Marzano tomatoes, try whole Muir Glen Organic Tomatoes.

San Marzano Tomatoes via GIFT

The Kitchen Think: With Limited Government Food Inspections, You Need A New Game Plan


Here’s the good news: PulseNet, a government-run network of public health labs that spots and reports on food borne illness outbreaks, is up and running again, albeit with a skeleton staff, as the shutdown continues.

Now the bad news: More than 300 people in 18 states have been sickened by a salmonella outbreak tied to a California chicken facility… and many of those cases appear resistant to antibiotics.

So here’s some info about what’s going on with food safety inspections during the shutdown (and how you can protect your family).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service is continuing inspections at meat and poultry production facilities with full-time inspectors.

The Food and Drug Administration is the agency actually responsible for the safety of most of the country’s food industry (80%!), including (and especially) imported seafood, produce and food products. The bulk of the FDA inspectors are currently furloughed.

If you buy locally sourced fish, or domestic wild-caught or domestic farmed fish, you’re probably in good shape.

Eighty-percent of the seafood we eat is imported. Without anyone doing the inspections, how do we know what kind of shape that shrimp was in before they froze it in Vietnam?

Farmers’ Markets are still up and running around the country, so stock up on as much fresh fruit and vegetables as possible. Freeze what you can. You may also want to reconsider that whole canning idea you pooh-poohed in June.

As it gets later in the season, a lot of the supermarket produce, like berries and lettuce, will be brought in from Mexico, Chile and Central America. If the shutdown continues, FDA inspectors won’t be there to make sure the baby spinach is E. Coli-free.

Troubling, confusing and very scary. So… what’s YOUR game plan?


I’m Christina Chavez

I was a TV journalist for many years, but with a house full of kids I decided to come off the road, go to culinary school and follow my passion for cooking. Mama’s High Strung is all about food… everything from creative recipe ideas to some really cool kitchen gadgets and cooking tips. I live in Chicago, but I love to travel and write about my food discoveries! You can reach me by email: mamashighstrung@gmail.com