Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The Greatest Tomatoes From Europe

How do you feel about tomatoes?  If you say you’ve never given the topic much thought, I’ll believe you.  Then I’ll politely ask you to scooch down the bench a bit, away from me.  I like tomatoes, and I like them a lot.  You might even call it a love affair.  Canned tomatoes are a staple of good home cooking, and when good cooks look for canned tomatoes at the grocery market, they look for Italy on the can.  Tomatoes preserved in cans are great any time of year, but they are especially handy in the winter when it’s hard to find a good tasting tomato in the produce section.

My wife is an amazing cook, for whom I often shop.  She told me years ago that if I couldn't find San Marzano on the shelf, that I should go to another store.  European preserved tomatoes are a staple in any Italian dish you might make at home.  Spaghetti and meatballs is swimming in them.  Lasagna is layered with them.  Bolognese is based in them.

The Greatest Tomatoes From Europe is a campaign staged by ANICAV, the Italian Association of Canned Vegetable Industries.  Their mission is to raise the profile of Italian preserved tomatoes in the U.S. and around the world.

The San Marzano tomatoes, grown in the Sarno River valley, carry the designation of Pomodoro San Marzano dell'Agro Sarnese-Nocerino.  You may find it simpler to look for the European Union's "DOP" symbol on the label.  The effort is much like the wine industry's protection of appellations through the DOCG or DOC designations.

ANICAV states that canned tomatoes are made through a traditional process which retains their great flavor.  That aspect is heightened in Roma tomatoes, which include the San Marzano variety of the fruit.  They are more flavorful, sweeter and less acidic than other types of tomatoes.  Plus, they have an oblong shape which they hold well, making them perfect for peeling and canning.

Tomatoes not only taste great and make for delicious cooking, they are healthy.  Tomatoes are naturally low in sugar and fat while bringing plenty of other good things - vitamins A and C, potassium, minerals, fiber and antioxidants - to the table.  ANICAV likes to say that Italian canned tomatoes deliver all the energy they have soaked up under the Mediterranean sun.

The Greatest Tomatoes From Europe come in various forms that cater to your needs.  Whole peeled tomatoes for cooking with a roast and potatoes, diced tomatoes for mixing in with eggs or pasta dishes, or chopped for soups or sauces.

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