If you've ever had a margherita pizza, you know that it's a dead simple dish with a few crucial moving parts. It was created by a Neapolitan chef in honor of Queen Margherita of Savoy in the late 19th century to celebrate her and her husband's visit to Naples. So, it's no surprise that this pizza (quite literally fit for a queen) would require the highest expression of ingredients -- specifically when it comes to tomatoes. San Marzanos if you want to be exact.
The three ingredients of a perfect margherita are mozzarella, fresh basil, and you guessed it, San Marzano tomatoes. So why does it matter what kind of tomato you use on your margherita, you may ask? San Marzanos are traditionally used in Neapolitan sauces because the acidity and texture of these long plum tomatoes make for a less watery, more flavorful tomato than most other varieties. Slices of the tomato likewise appear on the pizza. You can get high-quality mozzarella and fresh basil locally, but San Marzano tomatoes can only come from one place.
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The Real Deal
San Marzano tomatoes are grown in a region of southern Italy between Naples and Salerno called Sarnese Nocerino. The Italian government regulates these tomatoes and authentic San Marzanos are given certification with a D.O.P. marker which indicates their origin. (D.O.P. stands for Denominazione di Origine Protetta, which translates to "protected designation of origin.") Unfortunately, the San Marzano tomato cons have caught on, and subsequently, the real deal can be harder to identify. To make sure you're getting the genuine article, look for the Consorzio San Marzano number on the can. If there's no number, you probably bought a fake.
It's also important to note that authentic San Marzanos will only be sold canned in whole or halves. Anything claiming to be official San Marzano tomatoes that is diced, crushed, or in a paste will always be fake. Many tomatoes claiming to be true San Marzanos are actually grown in the U.S., but just as Champagne isn't champagne unless it comes from the Champagne region of France, San Marzanos aren't real unless they're from Sarnese Nocerino. If this all sounds like a lot of fuss, it exists for a good reason.
The Beauty Of Simplicity
Traditional margherita pizza doesn't just call for slices of San Marzano, but the sauce should be made with these beauties, too. San Marzanos are a perfect tomato for sauce because of their concentration of flavor and velvety texture. The Sarnese Nocerino area's micro-climate and rich volcanic soil create these sweet-tasting tomatoes. Because good Italian cooking is so simple, it's important to use the highest quality ingredients. Yes, a can of these guys will run you about five or six bucks, but when every ingredient is the star of the show it's worth shelling out a little extra. You can, quite literally, taste the difference.
Unlike San Marzanos, quality mozzarella can be made pretty easily at home with a few tools and some practice, or purchased locally as it is not regionally specific. In fact, it's a good idea to source your mozzarella from local producers, as many of the commercially sold versions contain a high water content and will be less flavorful. Fresh basil is easily grown in your kitchen or herb garden, wherever you may be. Now that you know how to identify true San Marzano tomatoes, there's nothing stopping you from having an authentic, delicious Neapolitan-style margherita pizza made with your own two hands. Buon appetito!
Read the original article on Daily Meal.