5 Best Ways to Identify Authentic San Marzano Tomatoes

AXO01604Pizza lovers don’t need an extra reason to celebrate tangy tomatoes! But March is National Nutrition Month, so we’d like to focus on what makes the indispensable pizza topping so good for us, AND how to choose them! Loved for their taste and adaptability, nutritious tomatoes are a great source of vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to our overall health. Eating significant amounts of tomatoes can help to protect ourselves against cancer and maintain healthy blood pressure.

The bold red fruit that often gets mistaken for a vegetable is rich in antioxidants, vitamin A and C, folic acid, and beta-carotene, as well as lycopene. Lycopene is present in other types of red produce, but it is tomatoes that we tend to get the majority of our lycopene intake from. Doctors have linked eating tomatoes to reducing inflammation and bad cholesterol, as well as improved survival in patients with heart failure. Consuming significant amounts of lycopene has been linked to reducing the risk of heart disease onset as well.

Despite their origins in the Americas, tomatoes are now one of Italy’s most emblematic and prized ingredients. It’s worth pointing out that like other ingredients, not all tomatoes are created equal! San Marzano tomatoes are especially flavorful and healthy. So what makes them unique you might ask?

For starters, San Marzano tomatoes come from the San Marzano seed and are grown in Sarnese-Nocerino Region of Italy outside of Naples in the volcanic soil of the foothills of Mt.Vesuvius. Volcanic soil is much more nutrient dense than regular soil, and this allows for the San Marzano tomatoes to be more nutritious for us to eat. In addition, they are sweet, delicate, low in acidity and contain less seeds than other plum tomatoes, making them the perfect pizza topping. We consistently turn to CIAO brand D.O.P. San Marzano tomatoes for their quality and great taste.

Due to the popularity and appeal of authentic San Marzano tomatoes, counterfeiters make a fortune by labelling subpar tomatoes with the “San Marzano” name on labels, leaving consumers confused and scammed. In order to get the most value for their money, at Pizza University and Culinary Arts Center, we are proud to feature CIAO’s San Marzano tomatoes during our pizza certification classes. This gives us the opportunity to explain why Chefs and Pizzaioli alike prefer these little culinary jewels.

Here’s how you can tell the real version from the fake:

  1. Marchio DOPGenuine San Marzano tomatoes have a D.O.P. designation.

D.O.P. means "Protected Designation of Origin." In Italy, San Marzano tomatoes must adhere to strict guidelines regarding where and how they are grown and processed. However, the U.S. does not regulate D.O.P. items to ensure they are authentic which allows for a market heavily saturated with fake products and false D.O.P. declarations.

  1. San Marzano tomatoes are only sold in cans.
  1. On the can, look for the words “S. Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino D.O.P.” and the symbols of the Consorzio (Consortium) and the D.O.P.
  1. The Consorzio (Consortium) also assigns a number to each can, labeled as “N° XXXXXXX.”


  1. San Marzano tomatoes are only sold whole or in filets so labels with "purée”, “chopped”, “diced”, “sauce”, or “organic” are fraudulent.

Learn more about our other favorite CIAO products in this blog post. Looking for inspiration? Click here to access mouthwatering sauce recipes using D.O.P. San Marzano tomatoes. No matter which recipe you choose to include them in, they’ll make your dishes sing with authentic Italian flavors and aromas!

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