By: Brian L. Patton
Not All San Marzanos are Created Equal
Sometimes it feels silly how simple a traditional Neapollitan pizza sauce is. But its simplicity, which creates a concentrated, bright tomato flavor, is one of the cornerstones of Neapolitan pizza. Nothing fancy, just a few ingredients and some quality, canned San Marzano tomatoes.
OK! Easy peasy, right? Just head on down to the store and grab a can that says “San Marzano” on it, right? Not quite. The designation of “San Marzano” tomatoes is tricky and confusing at best.
To get the sweeter, less-acidic San Marzanos that are grown in the volcanic ash-rich soil below Mount Vesuvius, you must look for the Denominazione d’Origine Protetta (“Protected Designation of Origin”) stamp, otherwise known as DOP.
Not every tomato that says “San Marzano” on the label actually qualifies as true DOP tomatoes.
Some are grown in America using San Marzano seeds, and are often labeled as “San Marzano style.” You have to look for a little red emblem on the label for the DOP designation to know that they are the real deal. These might not be too easy to find, depending where you are. And if you were to find them in a store or online, they would be on the pricier side.
Then there is the Cento brand of San Marzano tomatoes, which is fairly easy to find in grocery stores. Cento San Marzanos used to carry the DOP stamp of approval. The company says that due to what they determined to be the “unreasonable” nature of some new label requirements, they decided to remove the DOP seals from their label, but claim that they remain certified San
Marzano tomatoes that are grown in the proper regions of Italy. This is, of course, heavily debated on forums and blog posts, and we may never know the true answer. But these are the tomatoes that I use, and they make a flavorful sauce, packed with tomato goodness.
If you want to be absolutely sure you’re getting the real deal, seek out that D.O.P. stamp, but in my opinion, the Cento brand is completely acceptable, and delicious.
Two other important steps that make this sauce extra special are, straining excess water from the tomatoes, which concentrates their flavor, and removing as many seeds from the tomatoes as possible, because they would impart a bitterness to the sauce when blended.
- Makes 2 cups, enough for 3 pizzas
- 1 (28-ounce) can peeled San Marzano tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, grated or pressed
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl and pour the tomatoes into the strainer. Shake them back and forth a bit until they settle, then let them drain for 1 hour. You will be left with the tomatoes in a thick puree. The strained liquid can either be discarded, or used in a Bloody Mary, your call.
Over a bowl, gently puncture the bottom or side of each tomato with your thumb and push out the seeds so they fall into the bowl. Remove as many of the seeds as possible (you won’t get them all, and that’s OK), doing your best not to discard any of the tomato flesh or thick puree.
Combine the tomatoes, thick puree from the strainer, oil, garlic, and ½ teaspoon salt in a food processor or blender. If using a food processor or regular blender, pulse multiple times until smooth. If using a high-powered blender, blend on a low setting until smooth. If you blend it too intensely for too long, you’ll incorporate air bubbles into the sauce, thus diluting the flavor.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. The sauce will keep in the fridge for a week. Allow to come to room temperature before making your pizzas.
From Sexy’s Best, Vol. 1: Seriously Legit Vegan Neapolitan Pizza by Brian L. Patton (thesexyvegan.com). Reprinted courtesy of 99 Publishing. Photo Credit: Jackie Sobon (veganyackattack.com).
LINK TO PURCHASE THE BOOK: http://bit.ly/littlepizzabook
Makers of expertly crafted, single-recipe, vegan cookbooks, 99 Publishing’s mission is to create a new conduit which brings veganism further into the mainstream. Showcasing the best chefs, recipe developers, and home cooks the vegan world has to offer, we bring food ideas from every walk of life, in order to appeal to the widest audience. By way of rigorously tested, beautifully photographed, one-of-a-kind recipes, delivered easily and inexpensively to the consumer, 99 Publishing has turned to the next page in modern cookbookery.
Brian L. Patton (a.k.a. The Sexy Vegan) came to internet semi-fame in the early days of YouTube with his funny, irreverent, off-beat vegan cooking videos. He has since penned cookbooks, contributed to and been featured on major media outlets such as nytimes.com and huffingtonpost.com, and is a regular recipe columnist for VegNews Magazine. Patton is also an executive chef, popular social media personality, and host of the Sexy Vegan Radidio podcast.