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

Kitchen Think: Organic vs. Conventional (It’s So Confusing!)


I’m sure you saw last week’s story about a Stanford University study that found little evidence that organic foods are healthier than more conventionally grown food.

Now, that’s not completely accurate… but you have to read the full study to find that out. I’m not going to get into the merits of the study… it’s just too confusing.

But I’ll ask you this: should you care?

I pick and choose what organic produce to buy based largely on the non-profit Environmental Working Group’s annual “Dirty Dozen” report.  Like most people, I want to avoid pesticides and other chemicals used in conventional farming, if possible.

If farmers use pesticide-free organic growing methods, there are more nutrients in the soil, which increases the nutritional content of the food. But at the same time, using pesticides to help produce reach its peak ripeness enables those fruits and vegetables to be packed with more vitamins than those that are less-ripe.

But even conventionally grown produce contains less pesticide residue than the maximum allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency. Still, I’m not completely comfortable with what the government sets as an allowable amount of pesticide.

I told you it was confusing.

So what’s the answer? Buy organic if you can afford it. If you can’t, review the EWG Dirty Dozen list and make sure you thoroughly wash your produce before eating it. Above all, just like your Mama told you growing up: ”Keep eating your fruits and vegetables! They’re good for you!” (Regardless of how they’re grown!)


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