Did You Know That Certain Tomatoes Are Certified DOP?


Is it [tuhmey-toh], [tuh-mah-toh], or [San Marzano]?

And what does a tomato have to do to become certified in anything?

If you’re not a gourmet chef or an expert on fruits, you may not know about San Marzano tomatoes or what the DOP designation is (and yes, tomatoes are a fruit!) As a follow-up to “Pamela’s Marinara Recipe” post on Friday, January 6th, we wanted to provide some basic information on the subject. 

San Marzano refers to a region in Italy, as well as a specific strain of tomatoes. If a tomato is DOP certified it must meet both criteria. 

However, not all San Marzanos are grown in that region or are certified. Other strains are grown elsewhere and it’s up to the individual growers whether they want to go through the certification process.  

giarussa-jpg In the Italian language, DOP stands for Denominazione d’ Origine Protetta or “protected designation of origin.” The purpose of the designation is to protect the reputation of regional foods and the elimination of unfair competition and the misleading of consumers by non-genuine products, which may be of inferior quality or of a different flavor (think champagne versus sparkling wine.)

Some of the benchmarks for the certification are:

  • The type of strain of the tomato
  • The regions in Italy that they’re grown
  • How they’re grown
  • Their size, shape, and color when harvested
  • That they’re harvested by hand
  • That they’re peeled when packed

For a complete list of regulations click here.


The labeling must reflect where the tomatoes come from. If they’re grown outside of Italy they might say “Italian style” or “San Marzano style.” 

To ensure that a product is DOP certified just look for the red and gold starburst logo on the label. That’s your assurance that the tomatoes are the genuine San Marzano strain and grown in the specific region of Italy.


So, does DOP certification guarantee a better taste?
You be the judge. Taste is subjective and it’s up to the individual as to whether or not one tomato is superior to another. 

However, plum or paste type tomatoes are required for the marinara recipe, as salad tomatoes have too much liquid and not enough pulp. If you’re using home-canned tomatoes they must be in a puree. 

One thing is certain…tomato sauce is a comfort food. And we know from experience that comfort foods provide satisfaction and smiles. Just ask the youngster in the photo above!

Photo credit: juhansonin via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

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