The warm climate and rich volcanic soil of this southern region produces incredible food and the finest tomatoes in the world.
Central to Italian cuisine is the tomato. There are hundreds of tomato varieties grown in Italy but only one that is revered: the San Marzano tomato from Valle del Sarno in Campania. A type of plum tomato, it’s sweet, has low acidity, few seeds and a thick flesh, making it ideal for sauce – a foundational ingredient for the most iconic of local specialties, the Neapolitan pizza. But it’s not just the tomato’s genetics that make it the prized ingredient it is – it’s the Campania sun, soil, climate and proximity to the sea. The San Marzano name has been co-opted on many non-Italian products, so when buying canned San Marzanos look for Product of Italy and DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta or Protected Designation of Origin) on the label.
Another specialty of the region is Mozzarella di Bufala. Made from the extra-rich milk of Italy’s unique Mediterranean water buffalo (which is higher in nutrients, proteins and butterfat than cow’s milk), this irreplaceable cheese was awarded the DOP status in the 1990s and can only be produced in Campania, Apulia, Lazio and Molise. On a pizza or baked pasta, it melts like no other – due to the butterfat and milk proteins.
A lifelong friend to both these ingredients is basil, which grows in abundance in Campania. Fresh basil leaves added to San Marzano tomatoes make a simply authentic pizza or pasta sauce; Mozzarella di Bufala, with its rich and chewy texture, is fantastic served in a Caprese salad, with fresh tomatoes, basil and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.