Having got heavily into baking 4 years ago, and planning to build a wood-fired oven in the back yard during Summer 2013 – I found myself studying pizza-making in its most artisan extreme. Why is it, I wondered, that pizza tastes so good in Naples and Rome, whereas in the UK its this sloppy sauce laden junk food (eg. Dominos)? Its a whole raft of things it turns out, but most of all, the difference is that there are two different products. The difference is similar to the opposites of value white sliced sandwich loaf which you can buy in an English supermarket and a French country boule baked in France: it just isn’t the same product, and I’m not sure white sliced should qualify as “bread”.
Being savvy to the kind of **** that modern supermarkets and chain pizza places attempt to get you to eat, I investigated the gold standard of pizza making in Napoli, which is in fact a standard called “Verace Pizza Napoletana” (VPN for short). The instructions for making VPN authentic pizza call for San Marzano DOP tomatoes (this is an absolute requirement for authenticity), which I’ve seen others refer to as “saucy sauce” tomatoes.
You can investigate what other people say about San Marzano tomatoes yourself, but I’ve found they taste really good made into pizza sauce or pasta sauce, with a good balance of acidity and sweetness. San Marzano DOP is the San Marzano variety or cultivar, grown in a relatively small area within Campania, which is the region of Italy in which Naples is situated. They canning plants can only use the DOP label if the tomatoes are grown in the right place.
About 6 weeks ago, I sourced (or should I say sauced), my first batch of about 20 cans of San Marzano DOP tomatoes from Lupa Foods, which can supply AgriGenus San Marzano DOP tinned tomatoes currently priced at £1.29 per can plus shipping. For a few weeks I experimented with pizza sauces and pasta sauces and finally ran out of these fantastic tasting tomatoes. I returned to Lupa Foods, but to my dismay they were out of stock – but by now I know what a difference the right ingredient will make. So began the internet search and deli trawl – just where was a going to buy my San Marzano tomatoes in the UK.
You can find online forums where other Italian food junkies weep as the last street market grocer selling San Marzano’s in their part of London closing down due to councils racking up the rents, but surely getting a tin of some really special tomatoes wouldn’t be all that hard? You’d be wrong. You can easily source tinned San Marzano tomatoes in the UK, but only if you are prepared to pay.
Here is a list I’ve been working on illustrating where you can get these saucy rubies:
Brandname, price and supplier
Note: I’ve just done another check 1st January 2017, and the best two suppliers are currently Amazon now selling Zia Rosa San Marzanos, at £16.70 for 12 x 400g tins, or slightly cheaper packs of three 2.55kg Zia Rosa catering tins, while Lupa Foods “Lupetta” range are maintaining their competitiveness at £16.68 for 12 x 400g tins.
AgriGenus (San Marzano DOP) £1.29 per 400g from Lupa Foods (Deli used by the Royal Family!)
Tesco Finest San Marzano Peeled Plum Tomatoes (not DOP), £1.49 per 400G from Tesco
Strianese (San Marzano DOP) £1.60 per 400g from Cornish Food Market
DANI Coop (San Marzano DOP) £1.89 per 400g from Mediterranean Direct
Solania £1.95 per 400g from Luigi’s
La Bella San Marzano (not DOP, wholesale) from Mercanti (haven’t priced)
In my next post I’m going to describe how to make a basic pizza sauce with canned San Marzano tomatoes, to get that Italian pizza restaurant taste in your home made pizzas! I’ll also blog the other requirements for VPN pizza, and keep you updated with my own achievements as I attempt to approach perfection in home pizza making. Good luck “saucing” your tomatoes…