The tomato one of natures best culinary gifts. The Italians have adopted this fruit, yes a fruit not a vegetable as a staple of their cuisine. The red in the Italian flag is said to represent sauce pomodoro, or tomato sauce. And they have truly made it a culinary delight.
There are so many different varieties of tomatoes, shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors. They are each unique and so versatile. From eating them fresh from the vine with a pinch of salt or roasting them so that they are warm and burst with a tangy juice, or slowly cooked down so that their acidic nature turns into a rich deep and decadent sauce. The list is endless with the ways in which you can use and cook a tomato.
Tomatoes date back to the time of the Aztecs and were brought over to Europe from the European explores, when they brought with them native ingredients like corn, peppers, and potatoes. Which all of these ingredients changed the gastronomy of Europe. We can thank travel and exploration for that.
One of the areas in Italy that is synonyms with tomatoes is Naples. Even though tomatoes weren't documented until about the 1800s in cookbooks and literature of the region, the tropical climate lends itself to be a perfect fit for an abundance of tomatoes. Italians cook seasonally. They use what they have when they have it. So in the northern regions where the climate is drastically different, tomatoes are typically only used in the hot months, when they are able to grow. The majority of tomato dishes that are cooked year round with fresh tomatoes are those in the Southern regions. That's not to say that canned tomatoes are not used in all regions and you can't find a tomato dish in the winter. But typically fresh ripe tomatoes are local to the south throughout the year.
The tomato sauces we associate with Italy are more recent recipes. The first tomato sauce to be documented is in a French cookbook, in the mid-1700s. The sauces we call Italian- pomodoro, bolognese, fra diavolo, puttanesca date back to the 1800s, as mentioned when the first Italian tomato sauce was documented in an Italian recipe book. Even though these sauces are considered "new" in the culinary world, they have deep strong roots to their Italian region and people. What would Italy be without their tomatoes?