Posted: October 2, 2018 in Food, Italian, Recipes, san marzano, tomatoes
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Though I’m a fan of renowned Italian chef Marcella Hazan, I had never heard of what many claim to be her most famous recipe: her 3-ingredient tomato sauce. (OK, salt makes 4.) Recently, I read an article about it and thought I had to try it for myself. The results were amazing: a subtle hint of onion, and a creamy smooth sauce thanks to the butter. You can use a regular can of tomatoes, but real San Marzano tomatoes will give the best results. How do you know if you’ve got real San Marzano’s? Just so happens I have a pet peeve about that. Read below the recipe.

The sauce before onion removal.


1 28 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes
5 tablespoons butter (I use unsalted)
1 onion, peeled and cut in half

In a saucepan, combine the entire can of tomatoes (tomatoes and juice) and the butter, and add the onion with a couple of pinches of salt. Place the heat on medium, bring it to a simmer, and then cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, breaking the tomatoes with a spoon. Add more salt, if needed.

When the sauce is done, remove the onion.

Silky smooth and ready to use.


The original recipe says to discard the onion. What?! I’m an onion fanatic and I can tell you throwing the onion out is a sin. Here’s what I do: I place the onion on a baking sheet and put it under the broiler of my toaster oven: 5 minutes on one side, flip it, then 5 minutes on the other. If you’ve got a screamin’ broiler, those onions will have beautiful charred edges and the bits of tomato sauce left on the onion will caramelize to a fabulous intense, sweet paste. You then sprinkle Fleur de Sel on it, and devour it.

Never throw the onion away!


If you do your share of Italian recipes, you’ve used San Marzano tomatoes. Most good cooks agree that San Marzano’s are the best canned tomatoes you can buy.

Unfortunately,  the label can say “San Marzano tomatoes” even if they are not real San Marzano tomatoes.

San Marzano is a region in Italy near Naples and Mt. Vesuvius, and the special combination of climate and volcanic soil make these plum tomatoes world-famous. They have less water, fewer seeds and are picked off the vine when perfectly ripe and processed the same day.

But San Marzano is a variety of tomato, too…so you can have a can of San Marzano tomatoes that are not from San Marzano. And to add to the confusion, there’s actually a brand of tomatoes called San Marzano, with tomatoes grown in the United States. Bet your ass the sellers of these tomatoes are counting on you not to know the difference!

Sold everywhere, but these are NOT real San Marzano tomatoes. They’re grown in the USA.


Real San Marzano Tomatoes are a very old variety, extremely limited in quantity, grown and produced exclusively in the San Marzano region of Italy. Because production is so very limited, the Italian Government and the European Union have formed a way of protecting consumers from fraud by having San Marzano tomatoes tightly controlled. DOP, or denomination of protected origin, is the mechanism that the government is using to control the production and marketing of genuine San Marzano tomatoes. Labels for DOP products must be individually numbered and manually applied to each can in specific lots and government officials must oversee this application. So here’s the deal: unless you see “DOP” on the label with a hand-stamped number on the can, it’s not a real San Marzano tomato.


Yes! Real San Marzano tomatoes. Cento also sells non-certified San Marzano’s, so always look for the DOP on the can.


Another way to tell when you’re in the market is simple. Check the price. Your average can of tomatoes will be in the $2 range. Real DOP San Marzano tomatoes: about $4–$5 a can. It’s all about quality. Buy them on sale, and you’ll not only save a few bucks, but you’ll have them when you need them at arm’s reach!


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