By Heidi Lewis
“Anthony! Anthony!” Forty years ago, a TV mom stuck her head out the window calling her TV son home for lunch. In the ad, the boy sprinted through Boston’s North End to get home. It wasn’t his bionic ears alerting him, but the lure of spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce. The ad ran for more than a decade, and today, tourists in the North End still yell out “Anthony!” as they must “Stella!” in New Orleans and “Adrian!” in Philly.
Yet more than name-calling, the ad, like many of its ilk, used nostalgia to sell “homemade” products. We know, however, that no matter how much Vaseline they smear on the lens or swelling music they score to close-ups of wooden spoons of sauce—there is no homemade in a jar. For that, you need time and raw ingredients. And the main ingredient is included in our west coast TakeHome cases this week: San Marzanos! Primo saucing-tomatoes from Mariquita Farm in Aromas, CA (Monterey County).
It is said that the kingdom of Peru gave the kingdom of Naples the first San Marzano tomato seeds, and they grew famously in the volcanic soil of Mount Vesuvius. They are now grown all over the world, but in Italy, strict labeling laws require that even the valley in which they’re grown is included on labels. Tomatoes are a fruit that especially picks up the flavors of the region, or terroir, in which they’re grown.
San Marzanos are a roma-type tomato with thicker flesh, fewer seeds, and what has been described as “true tomato flavor”—rich with a sweet-to-bittersweet finish. Add chopped tomatoes to caramelized onions and garlic: a long-simmered sauce will develop in complexity; a quickly cooked sauce will have a more tart taste. Either way, taste frequently—you may like to add a dash of sugar or a splash of wine or vinegar to balance. Add in fresh herbs at the end of cooking; dried herbs at the beginning.
Preparation: For saucing, remove skin (by blanching) and de-seed, reserving juice (seeds can cause bitterness in sauce). Chop tomatoes and add with juice to your sauce base. San Marzanos can, of course, be used fresh as well. They’re just at their tomato-ey best in sauce form.
Storage: Tomatoes can be left at room temperature and should be used within 1–2 days for optimum flavor and texture.