San Marzano Tomato Sauce

by Alice Currah on February 29, 2012. Updated March 3, 2012

When it comes to grocery shopping I’ve always been and continue to be a perpetual skeptic when it comes to people trying to convince I need to buy certain “types” of anything.  Unless there is a compelling reason why I need to buy a certain variety or food, I’m usually always motivated by price.  This is something I learned from experience growing up in a family of six kids on a very limited income.

But every once in awhile a certain food item will stand out for superior quality which elevates my eating experience so much, to splurge makes it completely worth it.  This is the case with San Marzano tomatoes.


San Marzano tomatoes is a variety of tomatoes grown in volcanic soil in Italy.  They are more sweet than acidic compared to Roma tomatoes and are far superior than any other type of tomato you can buy from a can.

It was two years ago when I first started cooking with San Marzano tomatoes.  Typically priced at least $1 more than the other canned tomatoes, I was convinced before ever taking one bite all the hype surrounding these tomatoes was just that.. hype.  I don’t know why I believed this other than seeing one too many celebrity chefs on tv cook with this type of tomato – it had to be a marketing ploy.  But it was reading about these tomatoes on Orangette and Smitten Kitchen which softened my cynical buying ways to convince me to give San Marzano tomatoes a try.

Warning, once you go San Marzano you will never go back.  They are a life changer when it comes to cooking with tomatoes in the kitchen.  I repeat… save your pennies because they are worth it.

These tomatoes are magic.  They actually make you look like a better cook than you really are. When used to make pizza, tomato soup, or a marinara sauce, San Marzano tomatoes makes me look so ridiculously good.

I usually always have a can or two in my cupboard for when company comes over and I need a go to meal or when I do not have anything else to cook.  People who don’t even like spaghetti love when I make marinara sauce – especially kids.  I’m also often asked for recipes when I used these tomatoes in dishes – I always give credit back to these types of tomatoes.  You could say I am a San Marzano evangelist.

Today I would like to share with you a basic San Marzano Marinara Sauce also known as Pomodoro slightly adapted from Marcella Hazan.   This recipe will win you over – not because of anything I’ve created but all because of the San Marzano tomatoes.  Enjoy!

PS:  Don’t even try to make this using anything other than San Marzano tomatoes – you will be disappointed with the results and doing so will rob you of the joy of eating one of my most favorite foods I’ve had the pleasure to eat.

Update:  Thanks to you all who have brought it to my attention that Marcella Hazan should be credited with this recipe.  I originally discovered this recipe through Orangette and Smitten Kitchen as mentioned above.  But yes, she should get credit where credit is due!

Also, a few of you have brought up the fact that these particular tomatoes that I’ve used for this recipe are from the US and not Italy.  All things set aside as far as orgin, I have made this recipe numerous times using Hunts and other types of tomatoes and it is not the same.  Stricly based on flavor, the tomatoes in this particular green, white, and red branded can are better.  I usually buy them on sale and a 28-ounce can goes for $2.99 on sale, normally $3.99 in Seattle.

San Marzano Tomato Sauce
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
A simple but unbelievable tomato sauce
  • 1 – 28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes (whole peeled)
  • 1 medium onion, cut in half and outer peel removed
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoon sugar
  1. Place all the ingredients in a medium sauce pan with the onion faced cut side down. Using a spoon or another kitchen device like a whisk or a potato masher, press each whole tomato down until it bursts.
  2. Place a cover on the pot and bring the sauce to boil for 3 minutes and then reduce the heat to a medium low. Cook the sauce on a low simmer for 45 minutes, stirring once.
  3. Spoon the sauce over your favorite pasta.
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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Blog is the New Black February 29, 2012 at 5:33 am

Love the simplicity of this!


Wanda McKnight February 29, 2012 at 6:16 am

I absolutely agree! Once you discover these tomatoes, nothing else will do.


jane February 29, 2012 at 7:43 am

ahhh. marcella hazan’s recipe. so good!


italianista February 29, 2012 at 8:48 am

You should know that these are California tomatoes, not grown in the Italian soil that is often credited for their flavor. Also, they do not carry the DOC certification, which many consider a necessary mark of quality. For further info:

And, yes, Marcella Hazan’s famous Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter! Perfection.


Alison February 29, 2012 at 8:56 am

That brand is not from Italy, they are domestically grown from the same type of seeds. I don’t find it’s that impressive; I prefer Hunt’s over those. Real San Marzanos from Italy are worth the extra bucks though.

Also, you should really credit Marcella Hazan as this is almost exactly her recipe.


Kelly February 29, 2012 at 10:27 am

Echoing what other’s have said: Marcella Hazan should get credited as this is pretty much her sauce recipe–lightly adapted.


Diane in Wisconsin February 29, 2012 at 10:30 am

Same here – I thouht it was just Giada hype until I tasted them. Truly superior


Amy February 29, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Do you worry about the BPA in the cans? I also love San Marzanos, but I have been reading so much lately about the BPA in canned goods, and that it is especially bad in tomatoes.


Corinna February 29, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Yes, I had read an article about a list of foods to avoid and specifically, canned tomatoes was one of them. Will try to find the link and re-post later.


Kelley February 29, 2012 at 12:49 pm

where do you find these in SC? what market?


Tom November 5, 2012 at 9:53 am

Hi Kelley,
Food Lion carries the “Cento” brand, certified product of Italy


Alice Currah November 14, 2012 at 10:16 pm

I recently purchased a few cans of the the San Marzano Cento brand tomatoes. I have to say they were not the same as the other kind. I was very sad.


Suzanne B February 29, 2012 at 6:44 pm

Where can I find these??? San Diego CA – are they anywhere here??


alice March 3, 2012 at 5:01 pm

Hi Suzanne – Upscale or gourmet stores like Whole Foods usually carry this type of tomato as well as online like at Amazon.


Gina von February 29, 2012 at 8:54 pm

I couldn’t agree more. These are my favorite canned tomatoes!


LynS February 29, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Correction:Leap year occurs every four years, so if you began Savory Sweet February 29th, the year was 2008, not 2009, thus it’s four years old…. time flies, doesn’t it.


alice March 1, 2012 at 3:10 am

Hi Lyn.. I had a brain fart. You are correct. :)


Miss McBooty March 1, 2012 at 9:17 am

I’m convinced! I need to taste these tomatoes!!


Julie March 1, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Looks excellent…I will try this next time.


Karriann March 2, 2012 at 10:56 am

Thanks for sharing this simply recipe! I should give this a try :)

“Spice it Up”


Maureen March 3, 2012 at 10:34 am

Simple, delicious and gorgeous to look at!


Amber March 4, 2012 at 10:13 am

I went to my local import market and found a brand of San Marzano tomatoes from Italy, they were significantly more than the regular tomatoes ($4.79) but I figured with such glowing reviews, I better give them a try. I’ll make the sauce later in the week. Thanks for the recipe!


Marta March 5, 2012 at 10:54 pm

This inspired me to finally give San Marzano toms a try. I made the sauce and used a cup as a pizza topping tonight. What a difference! I loved the balance of sweet and acid. I’ve been using my homegrown (Seattle) tomatoes and they are too sweet. This is definitely a keeper.


Irish Mike March 5, 2012 at 11:17 pm

Absolutely agree 100%. The only way authentic Neapolitan pizza sauce is made…San Marzano and salt. Not cooked til the oven! Thank you for sharing! Love it.


Beverly March 6, 2012 at 11:10 am

The sauce looks beautiful & being a slight variation of a Marcella recipe, I have no doubt it’s delicious. She is the supreme goddess of my culinary life! Her recipes, using minimal basic ingredients in surprisingly simple ways, turn out dishes that no one believes are so easy.

Don’t miss out on Marcella’s Gorgonzola Cream sauce (takes about 5 minutes) or her Pork Loin Braised in Milk (yes — sounds more than odd, but I promise — everyone in the house will be drooling over just the aromas long before it’s done cooking).

Ah — and a quick shout-out for your choice of pasta. Rusticella D’Abruzzo pastas are my all time favorite dried pastas.


Laura (Blogging Over Thyme) March 6, 2012 at 10:19 pm

Just found your site and love it! I totally agree…San Marzano are the way to go, even if they are more expensive. I have to say (and yes, its not San Marzano) that I also love Pomi’s tomato products. They are very good and significantly less watery than other brands of canned tomatoes.


Paula March 19, 2012 at 7:51 pm

1 – I completely agree about the San Marzano tomatoes! They’re so good I could eat them straight out the can – no joke.

2 – My friend taught me a similar recipe but using the San Marzano diced tomatoes on spaghetti.

It’s amazing what great food a few quality ingredients can make! I strongly recommend this recipe for a simple and authentic pasta dish.


danb May 11, 2012 at 11:40 pm

I just wanted to let you know that the “san marzano” brand is not the real tomatoes, only cans with the DOP label are authentic


salma June 28, 2012 at 7:33 pm
salma June 28, 2012 at 7:39 pm

oops i see you linked to Deb’s post already! So you think that extra Tbsp of butter is unnecessary? I might throw it in anyway…. :)


Tina July 20, 2012 at 1:16 pm

This was so delicious and so easy – I am a believer now – jar sauce is gone!! I used the sauce in a new baked eggplant parmesan recipe and while the eggplant was cooking, my sauce was cooking then combined the two – so yummy. See the eggplant recipe here:


Monica August 5, 2012 at 12:49 pm

This marinara recipe is easy and goo! And, it was a great starter recipe for my teenage boys. I’m having my 16 yo daughter make it tonight. I put 3/4 of the cooked sauce into the blender and it was perfect.


Monica August 5, 2012 at 12:49 pm

That was supposed to read “good!”


Tom November 5, 2012 at 9:47 am

Really, no garlic or basil? … but you’re absolutely right about the deliciousness these tomatoes bring to the table !


Nikki G April 10, 2013 at 7:53 am

So, you don’t eat the onion? I cannot imagine any marinara sauce without the onion finely minced and sweated first in a little olive oil. I’m a stickler I guess. I will have to see if I can track down this brand of tomatoes in north GA. And I would have to put in a little garlic. :o) Thank you!


G May 7, 2013 at 9:53 pm

Ha! I just saw your blog entry this evening – 05/07/13. And it was after making an easy 3 ingredient marinara this time with SM toms. I COULDN’T BELIEVE THE TASTE DIFFERENCE! You articulated this so well. Previously I’d used a 28 oz can of Romas. THIS TIME – WOW. I used Cento San Marzano. Which I actually found at an Italian grocery store in Baltimore City for a dollar cheaper than the Trader Joe’s. They are definitely pricier but it is so worth it! Again, fun to find a fellow convert. g


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