San Marzano in the UK

This weekend I was somewhat shocked to have found that (Gro)Tesco, the supermarket chain that left a local pub here in Oxford derelict and burnt out for nearly 2 years, is selling my favoured San Marzano tomatoes for just 50 new UK pence per can.  My helpful brother-in-law pointed out they were selling for this price in London, but I found it hard to believe they could do this nationwide – given that I’m currently paying £1.75 per can from my local Italian Deli.  Are Tesco trying to create San Marzano anarchy in the UK?

A number of sources of these tomatoes which I’d originally researched have stopped selling them, as Tesco uses (loss making) price point to attempt to carve out a monopoly and shut down competition – so my moral advice is to buy them elsewhere, but if you want to get on and try them – and you can promise me it’ll be just the once – here is a link to a webpage which contains a picture of the can: San Marzano tomatoes at Tesco to help you navigate the nightmare that is shopping in (Gro)Tesco’s.  A neat way to deal with their (unfairly low) pricing is to buy up the entire stock in your nearby store, and sit on it…

If anyone knows who is selling (Gro)Tesco the DOP tomatoes please share, so I can play a role in authenticating them (or not).  Up to 150 people are reading this blog each week – so please share your source/sauce of San Marzano tomatoes in the UK!  Soon I will place an order with Mercanti who are restaurant suppliers and they do sell a range of non-DOP San Marzano tomato products – I will blog about its equivalency to Strianese for those of you keen enough to find out… 


About jonnyr9

I'm an enthusiastic amateur "scientific" cook and baker, and former scientist, and I like to bring scientific thinking to my cooking: thinking about what might be happening at a chemical or biological level during food preparation (including its growth, and preservation), and applying exact methods of mass and volume to core recipes, before varying them. I use an accurate weighing scale (to 0.1g). I like growing my own herbs, constructing my own raised beds, and constructing my own wood-fired pizza oven. I bring a certain level of OCD to the kitchen, and therefore my baking includes sourdough, and my pizza-making includes "reference" to the protected specifications for true pizza. If I can source "the right" ingredients for a dish, I will at almost any length (within reason) - before I find an equivalent in-country supplier. Therefore - if you've never eaten Lancashire cheese bought at Bury market near Manchester - you've never eaten Lancashire cheese. I'm going to try to include links to the same products I use in my blog, so my readers don't end up using sub-standard alternatives - "experimental replication" is key to scientific cooking. I was born in the North of England, but I live in the South, though I would prefer to live on an island in the Ionian Sea.
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5 Responses to San Marzano in the UK

  1. Scott says:

    Hey Jonny

    Thanks for these posts. Looks like your link to (Gro)Tesco (as you put it) shows the “San Marzano” tomatoes are out of stock but Lupa Foods has the 400g cans again at £1.19/can.

    Your recipe looks quite good actually. I’ve not made my first homemade pizza just yet as I’m still trying to find the ideal dough recipe…well, ideal for a first attempt. I also have seen some interesting sauce recipes too. I live in the UK (north west) but am from California so I’m probably more accustomed to NY or Neapolitan type pizza although I’ve become used to the thin crusts of the Pizza Expresses of the UK.

    Did you finish your wood burning oven yet? I have heard about pizza stones but hear they break easily. Another “home oven” alternative to the stone is a steel plate which I just had a local steel guy cut for me. So, once I treat (or “season”) the plate I’ll see if I can get some San Marzano tomatoes but may just get on with it from Asda tomatoes (sorry if that makes you cringe lol) until I get the whole “process” of creating my own pizza from home.

    I’m looking for that bubbly crust, with a light crunch but thin-ish toward the middle. I’m thinking NY Style I think.

    Other things to think about, for even just a basic margherita, is the type of Mozzarella or whatever cheese you want to add. The more research I do, the more it seems I need to source the best ingredients which can cause paralysis analysis so I think for now, I’ll start with “store bought” and move on to trying specialty ingredients but, I think I’ll be getting some San Marzanos from Lupa’s so thanks for mentioning that source in your other posts.

    You should post some pics of your “pies”. Would love to see how you’re cooking them if you don’t have your wood fired oven done. Or is it done?



  2. Neil says:

    I had also spotted this back in August – and found that Sainsbury’s had responded to Tesco by selling THEIR San Marzano toms also for 50p a tin! A crazy price for a great product so, ahem, I bought 14 tins…. sadly I only have 2 left, and perhaps not surprisingly they are now out of stock at Sainsbury and Tesco. Ah well, all good things come to an end…. but I can’t help feeling that they just made a bish of this, rather than deliberately trying to mess up a market – not like them not to try to squeeze our pips on something that isn’t likely to be a genuine loss leader (few people know about these great tomatoes, and it’s real top-shelf stuff). IMO someone just didn’t appreciate what they were doing – and ended up pricing their most premium product at less than their value offering! I’ll keep an eye out for the return of the San M.


  3. jonnyr9 says:

    I’m readying myself for a comprehensive review of sources of San Marzano tinned tomatoes during Christmas, but I should say Scott, my pizza oven build only got started in Q3 2013, and I’ve built a concrete block base nearly 1 metre tall on a 6 inch deep concrete foundation. I should post a few pics as a blog post. Next up, a steel mesh and pre-stressed lintel reinforced concrete plinth which could take a direct hit from a mortar shell. However, analysis paralysis means I’ve realised I have enough materials to build a concrete prep table next to the oven, and if I do it over the next two weekends, I only have about 3 hours work to lay the foundation and do the blockwork.


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