Thursday, April 2, 2009

Are San Marzano Tomatoes Really the Best?


The May & June 2009 issue of Cook's Illustrated arrived last week and included a nice recipe for "Best Quick Tomato Sauce," a 15-minute sauce enhanced with a little grated onion, garlic, and fresh basil. Their tasters recommend using Muir Glen or Tuttorosso crushed tomatoes, but I set out to do a comparative tasting. I made three batches simultaneously, identical but for the tomatoes. One batch was with the recommended Muir Glen organic tomatoes, the second was made with Muir Glen Fire Roasted organic tomatoes (recommended by a friend) and the third was made with San Marzano Italian tomatoes, which are generally reputed to be the best. I deviated from the recipe by using whole tomatoes which I crushed in my hands rather than already crushed ones. For the results, click more below.
All three batches were good, but they were not equal. The clear winner, in terms of taste and texture, was the batch made with the San Marzanos. Second best was the batch made with the Muir Glen tomatoes, which had a nice bright taste but lacked a little of the richness of the San Marzanos. The fire roasted Muir Glens had a slightly smoky but somewhat muted taste, and were also considerably thinner in texture.

While the San Marzano tomatoes are not organic, I suspect they are made in a fairly traditional artisanal and responsible way, so I personally would not count that against them. If you insist on organic, the Muir Glens are a more than acceptable alternative.

Bobby Jay


Gary Levine said...

Hi Bob, We use the Muir Glen but where do you get the San Marzano. We can't find it up here.

Bobby Jay said...


I'm surprised. There are many brands of imported Italian tomatoes which are often San Marzanos (even if they don't look like the picture in the blog). For example La Valle and De Cecco (the folks who make pasta). But even if not at the supermarket, I would expect any good gourmet store in your area to have them. If not, pick up a few cans at Fairway next time you are in NY.

Gary Levine said...

Thanks Bob