What Are San Marzano D.O.P. Tomatoes? How Can You Spot the Real Thing?

Nov 1, 2018

The D.O.P Certification

To distinguish whether or not the “San Marzano Tomatoes” you are buying from your local store are truly authentic and from the precise region and the right strain of tomato, they are put through a rigorous certification process. This strict process is followed to protect the designation of origin rights so that when someone buys San Marzano Tomatoes they get what they expected. Similar to Champagne or Prosecco, it is about the region it comes from.

DOP Denominazioned' Origine Protetta meaning Protected Designation of Origin. To receive the certification, tomato farmers must follow multiple, specific guidelines. Starting with the seeds of the tomatoes, they must date back to the original strain of San Marzano tomato. They cannot be genetically modified in any way. The tomatoes also must be grown in the Sarnese Nocerino area of Italy, with specific all-natural farming practices. They must be harvested at a specific point by hand when the size, shape and color are up to regulation. Lastly the tomatoes are peeled when packed and kept whole or cut in half but are not chopped or diced. They are packed into cans only and not into jars which helps to distinguish them from imitations. All the work that goes into these certified DOP tomatoes is the reason they are prized so highly. That is why many cans at your grocer may not have the official Italian certification stamps. They may not have wanted to go through all the different measures of certification, have GMO tomatoes, were grown in other parts of the world, or any number of other reasons. That is why the farmers that put in the effort to follow these guidelines want to have their products protected from being grouped in with tomatoes of lesser quality. (Read the full list of regulations here) Tomato producers that want to sell similar tomatoes may call them San Marzano or Italian Style tomatoes to distinguish them. These tomatoes are not truly from the Sarnese Nocerino area; commonly they are grown throughout the US or somewhere else in the world.


Our San Marzano Tomatoes are packed with the natural tomato juice, to ensure their taste remains fresh and full of flavor. San Marzano are famous for their tender texture, mild acidity and smooth finish. The flavor from tomatoes comes from the jelly/juicy insides that surround their seeds. These tomatoes have a full and firm pulp with a low seed count which means more of that yummy jelly inside. The flesh is taken off so that the tomatoes are already prepped to be made into a smooth sauce. That is why many recipes call for canned San Marzano tomatoes because those with skins need to also be peeled. Other companies may pack their cans with tomato purees that have been created from lower quality tomatoes and commonly considered to hinder the taste. It is important to understand the differences in the many varieties you may find at grocery stores to find the combination that is perfect for you!


  • The first tomatoes in Italy were actually yellow. That is why the word for tomato in Italian, pomodoro, translates to the golden apple.
  • Tomatoes were once thought to be poisonous when they were first brought over from Europe, thank goodness this myth was busted!
  • In France many considered tomatoes to be an aphrodisiac, perhaps that's why they are in such high demand.
  • For a long period of time San Marzano Tomatoes were difficult to get in the US and many imitation tomatoes were created. This caused the DOP stamp to become important to ensure the tomatoes were the real thing
  • They have become a popular item in many gardens but as we know these cannot be considered true San Marzano Tomatoes without the perfect soil and weather.
  • Similar to the specific rules with San Marzano Tomatoes the Chiefs in Naples, Italy have specific guidelines on what can be a real Neopolitan pizza. Of course San Marzano tomatoes are one of the choices to make it truly authentic!

How are Isola's San Marzano Tomatoes Grown and Packaged?

Watch the process of planting to packaging our San Marzano Tomatoes, and what the Isola difference truly is!

How to Use Them?

For many chefs the sauce to a dish such as pizzas, pastas or meats is the key difference between a good meal and a gourmet one. If you overlook the star everything is not being risen up. So their key ingredient is San Marzano Tomatoes!

1. Roasted Tomatoes

  • Toss the tomatoes with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, italian seasoning, salt, and roast on a baking sheet.
  • They are ideal as a salad or bruschetta.

2. Classic Marinara Sauce

  • A wonderful tomato to cook into sauce and easy to do so. Saute a half of diced onion with olive oil until little brown, add garlic (3 cloves) in a sauce pan, add kosher salt and pepper to taste, 3 oz of tomato paste and 1 teaspoon of oregano, basil, and parsley. Add two pounds of San Marzano tomatoes drained, and add one not drained. Add two bay leaves to sauce for additional flavor and cook for one hour on low heat, stirring every so often. Remove bay leaves before serving and add fresh basil or more parsley for additional flavor.
  • Serve on pasta, steak, chicken or meatballs.

3. Neapolitan pizza

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water, 1 (1/4-ounce) envelope active dry yeast, 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 4 1/2 cups all-purpose or "00" flour, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 pound fresh silced bufala mozzarella, 1 can San Marzano tomatoes, 10 fresh basil leaves, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • You can make your own dough with these recipes or buy them predone, it all about the sauce, the cheese and the basil!

4. Homemade Tomato Soup

  • Ingredients: 8 tbsp My Brother's Olive Oil, 1/3 White onion, 2 Cloves garlic, 2 lbs San Marzano Tomatoes Tomato, 2 1/2 Cups chicken stock, Salt & freshly ground black pepper, 1 pkge of Isola Crouton Stick, 6 Basil leaves
  • Heat Olive Oil in a large pan, Peel the onion and garlic - chop finely and saute gently in the hot oil until soft and transparent. Add tomatoes(drained) to the onion and garlic mixture in the pan and saute for 5 minutes. Then add the stock gradually. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 30 minutes. Blend until pureed. Chop the basil leaves. Pour the soup into soup dishes and add Isola Crouton Sticks and the basil leaves. Serve immediately.