I place all of my trust in Ina Garten (both in the kitchen and life in general). So much so, that on the rare occasion that she calls for a particular ingredient, I'm willing to go the extra mile to get it. (I won't actually make the 8,653-mile trek in search of Madagascan vanilla beans. For that, I'll just settle for a quick trip to Williams Sonoma.)
Luckily for me, and all other Barefoot Contessa devotees, Ina has a short list of recommended ingredients on her website that she considers to be good. I employ this secret weapon as a spiritual (of sorts) guide whilst filling up my pantry.
Among the items on her list: Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Extract, Tate's Chocolate Chip Cookies, Pernigotti Cocoa Powder, Nestlé Chocolate Chips, Maille Whole-Grain Dijon Mustard, DeCecco Pasta, Hellman's Real Mayonnaise (the everyman's mayo!), and San Marzano Tomatoes.
Buy: San Marzano Tomatoes, $9 for 28 ounces
That final fancy-sounding canned tomato brand is the Stephen Curry of Ina's pantry. It's the all-star ingredient of countless recipes including her weeknight bolognese, 16-bean pasta e fagioli, easy tomato soup, Moroccan lamb tagine, and orecchiette with broccoli rabe and sausage — just to name a few. Ina believes that these San Marzano tomatoes are so special that they even got their own glamour shot in her Foolproof cookbook.
San Marzano tomatoes are a specific variety grown in one very particular region of Italy: the Agro Sarnese Nocerino of the Sarno River Valley near Mount Vesuvius. (Say that five times fast.) Similar to Champagne from the Champagne region of France, these tomatoes are so special that they have official status as a "protected designation of origin" or D.O.P.
But upon further research into Ina's preferred brand, I discovered (to much dismay) that her favorite type of canned San Marzanos are not even grown in Italy, let alone certified D.O.P.
In fact, the label even says that the tomatoes are "Grown Domestically in the U.S." So, as it turns out, Ina's favorite brand of canned tomatoes aren't the real deal — they're just named after it.
I feel betrayed. It's a shocking revelation considering Ina's devotion to the best, most authentic ingredients, but who's to say these tomatoes don't make the best bolognese on this side of the Atlantic? The only way to find out is to make a batch and drown my disbelief in a big bowl of pasta. How easy is that?
What's your go-to brand of canned tomatoes?