Recently I learned of the San Marzano allure. Supposedly, this is the only tomato to be sanctioned for Pizza Napoletana. I was tempted to make a big batch of the stuff, following Michael Symon’s recipe, based on his grandmother’s recipe. Unfortunately, I didn’t have beef bones or bay leaves, two key ingredients, so my sauce ended up a bit bland. It was, however, fun to make. It’s rather cathartic to squeeze those tomatoes, pulverizing them in your hands, as you create a bubbling mash. I probably could have been a witch in another lifetime.. bubble bubble. A long slow simmer, drawing in the entire house under its spell.
The tomato flavor itself was at once familiar. It’s a roma blend, a bit richer than the juicy ones I get at peak farmer’s market season, without completely forgoing sweetness. The tomato itself is now sanctioned as an heirloom variety, which is sort of applying current lingo to make traditional varieties sound catchier. It sort of made me question the whole “heirloom” and “traditional” classification, as I’m sure the plant has grown up and modified over time. Does this mean I could call the dandelions that grow in my backyard heirloom varieties?
It’s also interesting that this tomato represented a gift to the king of Naples from the king of Peru, and has come to represent Campania (which has, now that I think about it, many delicious totem flavors… I need to get back there).
What I like most about them is the sad fact that they’re canned. I can reach for them at any time of the year and know that I have access to a decent tomato. Considering that my tomato vines aren’t showing too much promise of actually producing tomatoes (though they are making lovely vines — I could bathe in the smell of the fresh vines), I’m happy to have some Italian heirlooms at my beck and call.