Best Plum Tomatoes for Italian Cuisine: Roma or San Marzano?

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Strider
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Best Plum Tomatoes for Italian Cuisine: Roma or San Marzano?

Post by Strider »

Am seeking input from Bogleheaders who are knowledgable about Italian cuisine.

In your opinion, which plum tomato variety is best in this regard? Is it Roma? San Marzano? Some other variety? Am seeking information about fresh tomatoes, not canned tomatoes. Also, please distinguish between freshly-eaten tomatoes (e.g., antipasto) vs. tomatoes after cooking (e.g., tomato gravy/sauce).

Please offer your assessment of each variety (acidity, flavor intensity, solids content, etc.).

Thank you.

Strider
nimo956
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Re: Best Plum Tomatoes for Italian Cuisine: Roma or San Marzano?

Post by nimo956 »

San Marzano are good, though I’ve never done a blind taste test.
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Theseus
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Re: Best Plum Tomatoes for Italian Cuisine: Roma or San Marzano?

Post by Theseus »

Where do you even get fresh San Marzanos? We don't like canned, but we have found a glass jar version that is pretty good to make sauce etc.

Last year we bought some san marzano seeds from Italy and have planted them. We are waiting for the harvest. But I doubt it will taste like what we had there. The volcanic soils makes all the difference. Next year I am going to look for volcanic soil for these tomatoes.
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Re: Best Plum Tomatoes for Italian Cuisine: Roma or San Marzano?

Post by nyclon »

A word of caution to those who buy canned San marzano. There is a brand named “San marzano” in stores. The tomatoes are not from Italy - they are from the US. But it is priced as if it were an imported, premium product.
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Re: Best Plum Tomatoes for Italian Cuisine: Roma or San Marzano?

Post by tennisplyr »

nyclon wrote: Wed Aug 03, 2022 5:43 pm A word of caution to those who buy canned San marzano. There is a brand named “San marzano” in stores. The tomatoes are not from Italy - they are from the US. But it is priced as if it were an imported, premium product.
+1
I’ve also heard about San Marzano not being from Italy. We only consume crushed canned tomatoes and the brand is Cento.
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Re: Best Plum Tomatoes for Italian Cuisine: Roma or San Marzano?

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Best Tomatoes for Italian Cuisine: San Marzano DOP

Post by Bogle7 »

Canned. More flavor than fresh.
San Marzano DOP.
Pay the money.
https://www.amazon.com/Marzano-Authenti ... B00UW9EFAK
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homebuyer6426
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Re: Best Plum Tomatoes for Italian Cuisine: Roma or San Marzano?

Post by homebuyer6426 »

I grow the Sweet Million vining cherry tomato variety. They are prolific in their harvest (zone 6), especially if you start them indoors/greenhouse 4-6 weeks before their ground planting date. We eat them fresh, and also pureed and frozen. Our best year I think we got around 50 pounds from 10 plants. Never have had any pest or disease problems with them. They have come back every year from tomatoes that dropped on the ground, since 2018. You do need something to grow them up, like a fence or trellis. Even in the years when I'm lazy in the garden, they will give me a harvest.

We do primarily Greek cooking, but some Italian too. You can get a fantastic simple tomato soup just by adding some half-and-half and seasoning to the puree. The fresh tomatoes pair well with feta, parmesan, and most hard Italian cheeses. The puree is great for slow cooking beef or chicken. We keep the seeds and skins in it for the ease and health benefits, but they can be removed for a smoother end product.

Fresh tomatoes fermented in salt brine with some garlic cloves and basil thrown in is also a delicious recipe. The tomatoes get more tangy and also have a carbonated effervescence.

As far as Roma goes, if you buy them fresh from a US grocery store they generally won't have the fantastic flavor of homegrown. I may have had San Marzano in Italy, but can't be sure. I had a pizza there with the best sauce I've tasted in my life.
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Re: Best Plum Tomatoes for Italian Cuisine: Roma or San Marzano?

Post by michaeljc70 »

Unless you grow them yourself, most "fresh" tomatoes at the grocery store are not very good. They are picked too early to allow for shipping and have little flavor. If I am going to use fresh tomatoes, I tend to use grape, cherry or heirloom tomatoes as they have more/better flavor. For most sauces I use canned tomatoes as they are usually picked when ripe and canned quickly.

For canned tomatoes I almost always buy whole tomatoes as they are less processed and have less chemicals/preservatives. I like to use good San Marzano tomatoes when tomatoes are the essence of the dish like a tomato sauce. For other dishes like Mexican or Indian where there may be a lot of other spices and flavors (chilies, ginger, etc.) I may use something cheaper. Canned fire roasted tomatoes have a little more flavor than other cheap tomatoes so I use those sometimes. I've seen multiple celebrity chefs use those.
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Re: Best Plum Tomatoes for Italian Cuisine: Roma or San Marzano?

Post by pshonore »

tennisplyr wrote: Wed Aug 03, 2022 6:11 pm
nyclon wrote: Wed Aug 03, 2022 5:43 pm A word of caution to those who buy canned San marzano. There is a brand named “San marzano” in stores. The tomatoes are not from Italy - they are from the US. But it is priced as if it were an imported, premium product.
+1
I’ve also heard about San Marzano not being from Italy. We only consume crushed canned tomatoes and the brand is Cento.
And our local Costco sells them - approx $8 for a 3 can 28 oz pack.
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Re: Best Plum Tomatoes for Italian Cuisine: Roma or San Marzano?

Post by tennisplyr »

pshonore wrote: Thu Aug 04, 2022 8:19 am
tennisplyr wrote: Wed Aug 03, 2022 6:11 pm
nyclon wrote: Wed Aug 03, 2022 5:43 pm A word of caution to those who buy canned San marzano. There is a brand named “San marzano” in stores. The tomatoes are not from Italy - they are from the US. But it is priced as if it were an imported, premium product.
+1
I’ve also heard about San Marzano not being from Italy. We only consume crushed canned tomatoes and the brand is Cento.
And our local Costco sells them - approx $8 for a 3 can 28 oz pack.
I get Cento at Walmart for ~$2/can
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MJS
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Re: Best Plum Tomatoes for Italian Cuisine: Roma or San Marzano?

Post by MJS »

The answer is always "which smells best" today.

For fresh tomatoes, the sniff test is essential. Especially for a caprese salad -- that sensational aroma! The variety is far less important. Although, I generally like Campari for a good combination of juicy and favorful.

For sauces, baking & roasting, you can grow your own meaty paste tomatoes. (Roma & San Marzano are both paste tomatoes.) If not home grown, then canned is usually better than store bought "fresh" paste tomatoes.
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Re: Best Plum Tomatoes for Italian Cuisine: Roma or San Marzano?

Post by toblerone »

I grow my own tomatoes, but they are generally used for salads (I don't grow paste tomatoes).
I've made sauce from store bought Romas and others, but the canned options are far better. My preference is the Posardi (Sardinian) canned whole tomatoes.
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Re: Best Plum Tomatoes for Italian Cuisine: Roma or San Marzano?

Post by phinanciallyfit »

Lots of folks are talking about canned when you specifically stated fresh!

I have grown a few varieties myself and have bought the roma (not sure specific variety) from the store and the home grown San Marzanos are my favorite for tomato sauce or salsa. They have excellent flavor, very fleshy... few seeds, and not as much juice as store bought romas and other plum varieties I have grown. The plants are also extremely prolific. We only have a small garden, but canned at least 9 quarts of tomato sauce and ate them fresh through out the summer in a bean salad as well off of just 3 plants. I look forward to the day I can have a larger garden!
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Re: Best Plum Tomatoes for Italian Cuisine: Roma or San Marzano?

Post by michaeljc70 »

phinanciallyfit wrote: Thu Aug 04, 2022 1:29 pm Lots of folks are talking about canned when you specifically stated fresh!
The OP didn't say anything about growing tomatoes and I've never seen San Marzano fresh tomatoes at any local grocery store where I live.

It would be like if someone on here asked for the best front load mutual fund. I wouldn't just tell them the best front end load mutual fund.
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Re: Best Plum Tomatoes for Italian Cuisine: Roma or San Marzano?

Post by JoeRetire »

Strider wrote: Wed Aug 03, 2022 4:24 pm Am seeking input from Bogleheaders who are knowledgable about Italian cuisine.

In your opinion, which plum tomato variety is best in this regard? Is it Roma? San Marzano? Some other variety? Am seeking information about fresh tomatoes, not canned tomatoes. Also, please distinguish between freshly-eaten tomatoes (e.g., antipasto) vs. tomatoes after cooking (e.g., tomato gravy/sauce).
"Cuisine" encompasses a wide variety of foods.

Personally, I like cherry tomatoes for most fresh "Italian cuisine". I like them tart.
For pasta sauce, I like canned San Marzano tomatoes.
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MP173
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Re: Best Plum Tomatoes for Italian Cuisine: Roma or San Marzano?

Post by MP173 »

We grew our own San Marzano and Roma (from seeds) this year to be used for sauces. In the past only Roma.

Last night we had the first sauce (on Costco Ravioli with homemade ricotta cheese and fresh basil.

OMG...best sauce ever. I asked DW about it and she indicated the San Marzano were used. Very thick tomato with very little seeds or water. Full disclosure, she did use considerable amount of home grown garlic, onions, celery, and carrots plus other items.

We grew the plants from seed and are very satisfied with the result.

Only issue is the size (small...closer to 2" in length) and blossom rot early on (addressed).

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Re: Best Plum Tomatoes for Italian Cuisine: Roma or San Marzano?

Post by Theseus »

MP173 wrote: Thu Aug 04, 2022 4:53 pm
Only issue is the size (small...closer to 2" in length) and blossom rot early on (addressed).
We have the rot on San Marzons as well. Turning black at the bottom. How did you address it? I think our water is not enough as the leaves go wilted during the day before we water in the evening.
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Re: Best Plum Tomatoes for Italian Cuisine: Roma or San Marzano?

Post by toblerone »

Theseus wrote: Thu Aug 04, 2022 5:21 pm
MP173 wrote: Thu Aug 04, 2022 4:53 pm
Only issue is the size (small...closer to 2" in length) and blossom rot early on (addressed).
We have the rot on San Marzons as well. Turning black at the bottom. How did you address it? I think our water is not enough as the leaves go wilted during the day before we water in the evening.
Blossom end rot is caused by calcium deficiency. Usually the problem is not a lack of calcium in the soil, but lack of water to deliver the calcium, or over fertilizing with nitrogen. In my case I addressed it by watering more thoroughly in the morning, and adding a midday watering on the really hot days. A timer is your friend (if you work during the day).
There is also a treatment available called "Rot Stop" in the gardening section of HD. I haven't tried it.
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Re: Best Plum Tomatoes for Italian Cuisine: Roma or San Marzano?

Post by snackdog »

We avoid buying food packaged in metal cans for health reasons.
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Re: Best Plum Tomatoes for Italian Cuisine: Roma or San Marzano?

Post by Bogle7 »

snackdog wrote: Fri Aug 05, 2022 3:56 pm We avoid buying food packaged in metal cans for health reasons.
Perche?
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Strider
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Re: Best Plum Tomatoes for Italian Cuisine: Roma or San Marzano?

Post by Strider »

OP here.

Thanks to all who responded.

With regards to fresh San Marzano tomatoes, a local grower sells these. They are grown from certified San Marzano seeds (Johnny's Seeds) on a nearby farm. The soil is a loam, rich in organic matter, and is unlike the volcanic soil of Mount Vesuvius where San Marzano tomatoes were first cultivated. These NYS-grown tomatoes will certainly differ in taste from San Marzano tomatoes with an Italy-DOP designation, but I am told that they are excellent (and pricey).

I learned that the Roma variety of tomato has San Marzano as part of its breeding heritage.

Strider
Last edited by Strider on Sat Aug 06, 2022 12:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
TheGreyingDuke
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Re: Best Plum Tomatoes for Italian Cuisine: Roma or San Marzano?

Post by TheGreyingDuke »

I have grown tomatoes for over 40 years, always start my own plants, and there is no definitive answer to what is "best". Your taste may be different from the next person's, some varieties do well in one place and not another, and season to season changes in weather can have a big influence on output and quality.

Some years the San Marzanos will do great, the next I swear by the dependability of Amish Paste. The various Roma varieties are great and reliable producers but can be susceptible to some diseases. This year, in Upstate NY foe example, we have had some hot weather with some nights not getting out of the 70's. This induces blossom drop so tomatoes that are not prone to this problem, did much better (mainly late season varieties).

I think some of the advice you got above was spot on, look for what is having a good season, smell the freshness and be sure they are fully ripe before using in cooking. Here is a supplier of 380 varieties of tomato seeds, there is something for everyone!

https://tomatogrowers.com/pages/tomatoes
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Re: Best Plum Tomatoes for Italian Cuisine: Roma or San Marzano?

Post by mrgeeze »

A great raw tomato is unlikely to be found more than 25 miles from the vine it came from.

My comments that follow refer only to cooking Italian cuisine with plum tomatoes.

Best is a silly notion for a tomato. Can something so fleeting and variable really be best?

I'm sure once you get to a satisfactory tomato the quality of the meal may then depend more on other ingredients,possibly even the ability of the cook.
A good tomato is good enough for a good meal.

Its just dinner, it'll be gone in an hour or two.
Coursing through our digestive system along with the tacos we had for lunch.
You'll have to make breakfast soon enough.
Get over it, sling some hash, because people are hungry.

Dare to use a "good enough" tomato.

fwiw,
I buy Cento or whatever can labelled San Marzano.
I prefer whole plum tomatoes. I don't care much where they are grown.
I believe some of the store canned whole plums are just about as good.
I like when they put a few basil leaves in them.
I usually buy them by the case.
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Re: Best Plum Tomatoes for Italian Cuisine: Roma or San Marzano?

Post by jlawrence01 »

nyclon wrote: Wed Aug 03, 2022 5:43 pm A word of caution to those who buy canned San marzano. There is a brand named “San marzano” in stores. The tomatoes are not from Italy - they are from the US. But it is priced as if it were an imported, premium product.
Many of those tomatoes are labeled at "San Marzano style" tomatoes. Currently, I have a dozen cans of Italian San Marzano tomatoes and a dozen of the Hunt brand from the US. I use both and I cannot tell the difference.

Personally, I would use fresh tomatoes this time of year.
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Re: Best Plum Tomatoes for Italian Cuisine: Roma or San Marzano?

Post by AlwaysLearningMore »

Genuine San Marzano tomatoes are hard to beat IMHO.
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Re: Best Plum Tomatoes for Italian Cuisine: Roma or San Marzano?

Post by Dottie57 »

This thread makes me miss my dad so much. He planted way too many tomato plants each year. Right now he would be in his glory. Eating tomatoes for lunch and dinner. Tomato sandwiches, BLTs, pico de gallo, fresh pasta sauces. He’d give neighbors some to, but it was hard to give his booty away. Lots of pints of tomatoes were frozen to make pasta sauce in the winter.

As Archie and Edith would sing “Those were the Days”.
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