Pizza lovers in America have a big problem: how do we craft the kind of amazing pizza sauce that can be found in Italy? The secret is in the quality of the tomatoes.
Ask anyone who’s traveled to Italy and they’ll tell you: the food there rocks! Everyone has a different favorite meal, and a different flavor profile, but one common element remains across travel stories. People marvel at the flavor of foods with only 3-5 ingredients.
How is it that Italians can pack so much flavor into such a simple meal? How can we replicate the perfect sauce we get to eat in Italy?
State of tomatoes in the US
Long story short: tomatoes found on grocery store shelves in the US are lacking. How tomatoes got to be this way is a topic as opaque and divisive as how New York bagels are so good. As far as this humble writer/foodie is concerned, there are a handful of likely culprits that conspire to cause our tomato malady.
Farmers are under a lot of pressure to produce volumes of fruits and vegetables. Not only do they have to produce these high yields, they have to ensure that they last long enough to make it to the end consumer . This focus leaves the importance of flavor a distant third on the totem pole, an afterthought.
Another consideration is that Americans demand access to seasonal foods year round. Farmers grow tomatoes in Florida to ensure a year-round supply, but the humidity and soil composition don’t do the tomatoes and flavor favors. Instead, farmers have to kick start their defenses with pesticides to protect the tomatoes in their unnaturally hostile environment. Clearly, our friend the tomato deserves better!
Through years of the previous two practices, tomatoes in America are now missing the gene that allows them to produce the appropriate amount of sugar! In the 1930s, farmers bred tomatoes that were uniformly red in color, which helped them ensure the tomatoes were ripe, but inversely affected flavor .
So we now have a pretty compelling explanation as to why sauce is so much better in Italy, but what’s an aspiring American piazzolo to do?
Quality of Canned Tomatoes
Canned tomatoes make better pizza sauce, at least in America. There, we said it. Here’s the secret: consumers care a lot about what tomatoes look like fresh on store shelves, but no one cares what tomatoes look like after they’re chopped up and canned! That means companies that can tomatoes can focus on selecting the tastiest varieties, instead of the kinds that look the best for the longest period of time.
Our Culinary Manager at Pizzacraft swears by canned tomatoes for the pizzas he makes here, and he loves a particular brand: Bianco Dinapoli. They’re sold locally on the West Coast at Whole Foods, and the company tells us that they’re looking to expand to national distribution for consumers. Their products are currently available Amazon nationally (through resellers), and are widely distributed to restaurants throughout the United States. The best part? They taste absolutely delicious. They’re the perfect balance of tart, sweet, and bold tomato flavor that will lend authenticity to any sauce.
If they’re not available in your area, try putting together a sauce with any can of organic crushed or peeled tomatoes and let us know what you think!