If you’ve had the opportunity to try one of our authentic Neapolitan pizzas here at Vero Amore, you’ve tasted the delicious, famous San Marzano tomatoes that we use in our pizza sauce.

Under the regulations set forth by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, pizzas are only considered certified authentic Neapolitan if the sauce used is made with San Marzano tomatoes and we think they add all the right flavors! Here’s everything you need to know about San Marzano tomatoes.

San Marzano tomatoes are a type of Italian plum tomatoes that are famously known worldwide for being sweet and flavorful. The name San Marzano refers not only to the strain of tomato, but also to the region of Italy in which they originate. Grown in the Agro Sarnese-Nocerino area near Naples, the tomatoes are grown in fertile soil on small lots of land under the legendary Mount Vesuvius. Only the tomatoes grown here are authentic and when purchasing canned San Marzano tomatoes in the United States, you must be aware that there are mislabeled imposters.

An organization called the Denominazione d’Origine Protetta, or the D.O.P. set forth a number of specific regulations that define the tomatoes. The D.O.P. translates literally to “Protected Designation of Origin” in English and applies not only to tomatoes, but also to meets, cheese, breads and pastas throughout Italy. The objective of this organization is to protect the reputation of the product and to make every effort to eliminate non-genuine products. Regulations set forth by the D.O.P. for San Marzano tomatoes include where and how they can be grown, what strain of tomato they are, the size and shape of the tomatoes, and the color at the time of harvest. The tomatoes must also be harvested by hand, by the contadini, or farmers, and be peeled before they are packed.

In addition to the D.O.P., the European Union has also provided their own set of guidelines for San Marzano tomatoes that the contadini must follow that include the breeding of the tomato seeds, how far apart from one another they must be planted, and even labeling guidelines, which allows imposters to be easily spotted if you know what to look for. Labeling on true San Marzano tomatoes must have an ID number that will appear as “N°XXXXXXX”. You will also find a D.O.P. seal of the consortium and the label will read “Pomodoro S. Marzano dell’ Agro Sarnese-Nocerino.” Authentic San Marzano tomatoes will never be sold as crushed, diced, pulped, pureed, organic, or as a sauce. They will only be sold whole or in fillets.

In 2010, Italian police confiscated more than 1,000 tons of tomatoes fraudulently claiming to be San Marzano that were headed to the United States. While this is illegal in Italy, the sale of imposter San Marzano tomatoes is unfortunately not considered a crime here. The only way to be certain that your money is being spent on the real deal is to be aware of the labeling guidelines. So the next time your recipe calls for tomatoes, or maybe you’re making your own pasta sauce, try picking up a can of authentic San Marzano tomatoes, you will definitely taste the difference!