What are DOP San Marzano Tomatoes?

Written by Charlie Sprague September 13, 2022

In the world of pasta and pizza sauces, the San Marzano tomato reigns supreme. This delicious Italian tomato has grown from its humble origins in the Italian town of San Marzano sul Sarno into the gold standard of tomatoes in the culinary world. But what makes them so special? And how can you tell if you have the real deal DOP San Marzano tomatoes for your dish?

Let’s talk DOP

If you’ve ever browsed the higher end of canned tomatoes, you might have noticed the letters DOP on the label. But what does DOP stand for? DOP is an abbreviation of Denominazione d'Origine Protetta in Italian, meaning that the tomatoes in the can are part of an elite few fruits designated as Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) in English. DOP tomatoes are grown exclusively in the province of Salerno, near Naples, Italy, and must adhere to a strict set of rules.

Some of these rules are:

  • The tomatoes must be the San Marzano strain
  • They must be grown in Salerno
  • They must be grown with specific, all-natural farming methods
  • The size, shape, and color of the tomatoes needs to be spot on at harvest
  • The tomatoes must be harvested by hand
  • And they must be peeled when packaged.

Italian DOP Seal

But are my tomatoes really DOP?

Because of the higher price tag and the rarity that the DOP designation brings, there are a lot of imposters out there. If you see a can labled as “Italian-style tomatoes”, or “San Marzano-style”, you’ll know right away that these are not the tomatoes you’re looking for. Sometimes it’s a little harder to tell, though, in which case, look for the origin of the tomatoes listed on the label. To be sure you’re getting real DOP tomatoes from Italy, be on the lookout for the red and yellow starburst symbol that marks them as a true DOP product.

Can you recommend some real DOP tomatoes?

Absolutely! If you’re looking for DOP San Marzano tomatoes, look no further than Rega. With an over 50-year history of traditional and natural farming methods, Rega remains one of only 42 DOP-certified plots groing San Marzano Tomatoes in Italy. You won’t find any knock-offs here, only delicious San Marzano tomatoes, certified DOP and imported directly from Italy to your kitchen.

But what makes a San Marzano a San Marzano?

San Marzano tomatoes as a species can be grown all over the world in the right climate. But to get truly delicious DOP San Marzanos, the plants need to be grown in the incredibly fertile volcanic soil surrounding Mount Vesuvius. It’s believed that the soil alone imparts the fruits with a richer flavor and more nutrients than your average tomato. In addition to the unique volcanic soil in the region, Italy’s clean air and mild climate help produce incredibly delicious and naturally sweet tomatoes.

If you’re looking for the perfect sauce tomato, you can’t do much better than San Marzano tomatoes. As a variety of plum tomatoes, San Marzanos are similar in shape, but feature a thinner, elongated body and a thick skin. They also have a lower water content and fewer seeds than other varieties, making them ideal for canning and using whole. In addition to their unique shape, they also have a sweet flavor and lower acidity that plays perfectly with other ingredients.


Italian Pasta Dish With San Marzano Tomato Sauce

So, how do I use them?

Sauces, curries, and soups, oh my! San Marzano tomatoes can be used in any tomato-based recipe, but truly shine in pizza and pasta sauces. As San Marzanos come already peeled and ready to go, just give them a squeeze into a saucepan or stock pot to crush them up for your sauces, or dice them into a soup or stew. With their natural sweetness and lower acidity, these tomatoes won’t overwhelm your dish with the stronger flavor of other tomatoes.

To get the true taste of Italy on your plate, it’s worth it to spend those few extra bucks for the ultimate flavor and experience of real deal DOP San Marzano tomatoes.

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