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  • Writer's pictureBurke Burns


Italian cooking is synonymous with many essential ingredients. The art of making pasta has been well documented, and cherished by diners worldwide. Fresh pasta made from scratch makes an Italian dish unforgettable. Different regions of Italy specialize in pastas of different shapes and sizes, sometimes even stuffed with meat or cheese. Wines are also inseparable from Italian cuisine. From the sangiovese and chianti wines of northern Italy to Nero d’Avola Sicilian wine, there is not a meal served on the Italian penisula that can’t be paired with something. Fresh fish also has roots in the heart of everything Italian. The Feast of the Seven Fishes even forms a centerpiece for Christmas celebrations in Italian-American households. A roasted or grilled Branzino is a delicious entrée, and is sometimes known as European Sea Bass.

Of all the components to Italian food, probably the most prevalent and heart-warming is the tomato. Tomato sauce is a favorite amongst older people, children, Americans, Italians…there is really no limit to the joy that can be brought to a kitchen when there is gravy on the stove. Italian restaurants have tomatoes in many of their pasta sauces. In addition, how can a great pizza pie be great without a proper tomato sauce? It cannot. Where do we find the best tomatoes to create dishes that are Italian masterpieces?

Roma tomatoes are in the plum tomato category and are used to make sauce or paste. Plum tomatoes are usually specifically grown for these products or for canning. Generally they are found in more northern climates than Italy, although they are grown in Mexico. Romas often are in a pear or egg shape and may be a little smaller than some tomatoes, but they are firm and very tasty.

The San Marzano tomato takes on an even more formal following. This tomato is a little sweeter and stronger tasting than the Roma. It also has less seeds. Neapolitan pizza is only supposed to made with San Marzano tomatoes. San Marzano tomatoes which originated in Italy, can be classified as official if grown in the valley of the Sarno. Believe it or not, there has been tomato fraud. The tomatoes are relatively expensive, so there are times where the carabinieri (military-style policing force) has confiscated thousands of tons of improperly marked tomatoes. Talk about serious tomato business.

If you are looking for high quality, a Pomodoro di Pachino seems to be flawless. It is absolutely delicious- the sweet-tasting tomato that stays fresh a long time. These Pachino greats are native to Sicily.

Everyone loves a fresh bruschetta, especially eating al fresco on a late spring or early autumn evening. A nice chardonnay or some champagne would go really nicely with bruschetta. The tomatoes used are usually heirlooms. These are much tastier tomatoes that aren’t hybrids, in fact, they are grown specifically for quality taste. A grape, plum, or cherry tomato would be the perfect heirloom for bruschetta with their delectable taste and their firmness, which makes them easy to chop. Beefsteak tomatoes, which are ribbed, are great for bruschetta as well.

No matter what tomato you prefer, when you are creating a memorable marinara sauce, a Brandywine tomato shoud possibly be considered. This is because some think the Brandywine is the tastiest. Critics like it due to the real balance between acidity and sweetness. Whichever tomatoes you use, letting the gravy simmer for hours is an authentic and tasty way to ensure your pasta will be perfecto.

Tutto Fresco Italian Restaurant in Bel Air, Maryland is an outstanding purveyor of all things tomato based. The pizza and pastas are the best in Harford County, and the recipes call for the most delicious tomatoes.

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