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Manuela Rotilio:

"I see more and more a sense of pride when people have made their own passata with the San Marzano"

Anyone who wants authentic San Marzano tomatoes for passata and/or wine grapes should be in Genk during the months of August and September. Here, Manuela Rotilio imports some 24 tonnes of tomatoes every week directly from Abruzzo and Puglia. "Actually, there are two types of tomatoes suitable for making real Italian passata: the Romanelli tomatoes, whose skin is less amenable to transport, and the San Marzano tomatoes, whose skin is a little firmer," explains Manuela.

Manuela, who works for AB InBev in everyday life, got into the business of these pickled tomatoes some 14 years ago. "My father had an Italian food shop selling fruit and vegetables, but he passed away at the time. To keep the tradition alive, and also because I really enjoy it, I decided to continue his work. There was also a huge demand for these tomatoes from his regular customer base."

The Limburg native with Italian roots has now started importing again this season. "Every week, the tomatoes are picked, mainly by hand, and sent directly our way. Then they arrive every Thursday from 1 August to 15 September, after which my customers can collect them from Friday to Sunday." This happens in large numbers. "Thanks to the media and word-of-mouth advertising, I am now known throughout Flanders, and people come from far and wide to collect them. For example, I recently heard a story of people from the north of the Netherlands who drove 2.5 hours for a few crates of our San Marzano tomatoes."

The popularity of San Marzano tomatoes, according to Manuela, lies in their ideal structure for making a sauce or soup. "The tomato is sun-ripened, contains little water, little pith, is sweet, and the pulp is also nice and thick. This makes it a perfect base for making a tomato sauce." She also sees an ever-growing trend of consumers stepping back into the kitchen themselves. "People are increasingly going back to authenticity and quality in their own kitchens. I notice a sense of pride among my customers when they pickle their own sauce, so the demand continues to grow. Ninety-five percent of my customers are private individuals and perhaps a few caterers and chefs. The majority, however, are hobby cooks who enjoy cooking their own delicious meals."

Focusing full-time on importing San Marzano tomatoes is not on the cards, however, according to Manuela. "They are not store-bought tomatoes, which last for a week or two. Moreover, the tomatoes are sun-ripened. The plants are grown in April, and the harvest starts at the end of July. It's great fun for two months, but of course, they have to be sold right away for the best quality."

For more information:
Manuela Rotilio
Da Manuela Rotilio
+32 479 64 49 42
https://www.facebook.com/tomaten.wijndruiven 


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