I hear Italy has the best tomatoes in the world.
As far as fresh tomatoes, nothing can beat one you pick off your own vine that has been nurtured for weeks. The taste of sweet success, in nightshade form.
Those Italians have San Marzano tomatoes, they grow and can them. I bought a large can of those imported tomatoes out of curiosity. Are these really any better? Well for a true scientific endeavour, I would have to prepare the exact same recipe using two types of tomatoes, forgein and domestic. Did I have time for this experiment? No. I did prepare the San Marzano tomatoes in a lamb stew inspired by my late great aunt Viola. My aunt sent me three of Granny’s old cookbooks aftering locating the shoe box housing them. She sent me the books because you’re the family’s most passionate cook, she wrote in her card accompanying the books. I cried. I was elated and touched all at once. In one of the books, a church group cook book, my Granny’s sister authored a few recipes. One recipe was a tomato and meat stew, I had just picked up some lamb on a whim so that would be the meat, the tomatoes would be the handsome San Marzano.
Since this type of tomato is so prized and therefore more expensive, be careful to read the label on the can and check for a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) logo, there are immitations out there. True San Marzano tomatoes are grown in the San Marzano (Campania) region of Italy. You can buy the seeds and try growing your own, but I doubt they will be the same unless you live near a volcano. If I find the seeds, I’ll give it a go. Italy is on the must-see/visit/taste list.
San Marzano Lamb Stew
- about 1lb of lamb
- 28oz can San Marzano tomatoes
- 1/2 head garlic, roasted in foil until soft and fragrant
- herb de Provence
- 2 white or gold potatoes, peeled and diced
- handful green beans, trimmed
- 1/2 white onion, diced
- parsley (garnish)
- salt and pepper to taste
Cook the tomatoes in their sauce over medium-low heat. In corporate the roasted garlic, salt and pepper. Break the whole pieces of tomatoes apart as they cook.
Season the lamb with salt, pepper, and herb de Provence. Brown in a Dutch oven on the stove. Remove and sauté the onion in the fat. Return the meat to the pan and fill in the gaps with the potatoes and green beans. Add the tomatoes and cover. Transfer to a 350ºF oven for 30 – 45 minutes.