Long equated with the cuisine of southern Italy, the tomato was actually a gift of the New World to the Old, brought to Italy for the first time after Columbus’s voyages to the Americas.
According to popular tradition, the seeds of the world’s most prized variety of plum tomato were first brought to the kingdom of Naples from the Viceroyalty of Peru in 1770. Some maintain that the original San Marzano was actually a result of crossing three tomatoes (the King Umberto, Fiaschella, and Fiascona) grown in the area around Naples in the early 1900s.
Tomato cultivation is centered in the compania region, where the rich volcanic soil and intense Mediterranean sun provide optimal growing conditions. On July 10, 1996, the European Union granted DOP status (which stands for Denominazione di Origine Protetta, or Protected Designation of Origin) to the San Marzano of the Agro Sarnese-Nocerino area of the region of Campania, Italy.
The San Marzano has become the darling of professional chefs and home cooks around the globe because of its vibrant color and exquisite flavor—sweet, but with a characteristic bite. Moreover, the San Marzano’s firm flesh, low seed count, and skin that slips off easily makes it ideally suited to preservation by canning.