Mutti: Italy’s favourite tomatoes

Mutti: Italy’s top tomato brand

by Great British Chefs 04 November 2020

Mutti’s two lions are instantly recognisable on shelves, but there’s more to this family-run company than a logo – Mutti has been pioneering smart preservation techniques for well over a century, and their tomatoes remain the best in the business.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

We’ve spoken before about the items we think are essential to a well-stocked pantry, but tinned tomatoes might well be top of the list. Whether you’re simmering a ragu, cooking up a curry or whipping up pizza for the family, a tin of good quality tomatoes can make all the difference between an average meal and an exceptional one, and can get you out of a jam when the fridge is looking bare.

When it comes to tomatoes, quality is important. We’ve used our fair share of tinned tomato products over the years and come to realise that not all tins of tomatoes are created equal – there are massive differences in quality and flavour depending where you buy and how much you’re willing to spend. Good tomato products should have a nice deep red colour, a pure tomato flavour, a freshness and a sweetness. That’s not always easy to find, but for our money, Mutti tomato products have always delivered on all fronts.

No country in the world celebrates tomatoes quite like Italy, and it speaks to the quality of Mutti’s tomatoes that the brand remains Italy’s favourite. Mutti’s history stretches way back to the mid-1800s when Giovani Mutti first started growing tomatoes in the small village of Basilicanova, just outside of Parma. The company has remained in the family ever since, and generations of Muttis have turned a simple farming business into one of Italy’s most celebrated food producers.

Mutti has always been committed to growing and sourcing the best tomatoes, but also to preserving them as fresh as possible. When Giovani Mutti first started growing tomatoes on his farm in the 1850s, most other farmers at the time were spreading their efforts between different crops, animal husbandry and dairy products. Giovani was the first to focus entirely on tomatoes; he decided from the beginning to devote his time to growing Rotondo di Parma – a beautiful, large, plum-shaped tomato that flourishes in the warm summers of Emilia-Romagna.

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As the Fratelli Mutti company started to gain notoriety in the late 1800s, the family focused their efforts on ways to preserve these gorgeous tomatoes. In 1909, Ugo Mutti designed a process whereby the tomatoes were vacuum-sealed and cooked sous-vide, before being preserved in cans; the result was the first ever commercial tomato concentrate, sold as ‘conserva nera’ by the Mutti family.

Before conserva nera, Italian cooks would cook chopped tomatoes in saucepans then dry the paste in the sun, but the process removed a lot of the flavour and vibrancy of the tomatoes. Mutti’s pioneering sous-vide technique locked in all that flavour instead, and it made Mutti a staple in Italian households.

There were further innovations too. The aluminium tubes that we buy pastes and preserves in today? Ugo Mutti invented those back in 1951 as a new way to preserve Mutti tomato concentrate for longer. In the 1970s, Mutti developed a new cold-processing method that made it possible to preserve fresh, tomato paste for the first time – a genuine game-changer for home cooks all over the world.

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Fast forward to today and Mutti’s pedigree and commitment to quality continues. Mutti has continually set new standards in terms of their supply chain – they work closely with their farming partners, paying higher prices for the best quality so that their partners can pay fair wages and maintain sustainable farming practices. In 2000 they introduced the Pomodorino D’Oro or ‘Golden Tomato’, a financial award given each year to the farmer that grows the best tomatoes. The fields that Giovani Mutti farmed over a century ago are the same fields that Mutti uses today to grow Rotondo di Parma tomatoes. Mutti preserves other varieties too – plum and cherry tomatoes from Puglia, Datterini tomatoes from Emilia-Romagna and San Marzanos from PDO-protected San Marzano sul Sarno in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. These tomatoes all have their own characteristics, inherited from the natively different climate and soil conditions they grow in; Mutti conserves the distinctive qualities of those tomatoes by making sure that the ripe tomatoes are preserved less than twenty four hours after they’ve been picked. The result is a tin of tomatoes that really tastes like fresh tomato – it retains all the natural acidity, sweetness and minerality of the original.

Mutti’s tomatoes have continued to scoop numerous awards as a result. From the very beginning, back in 1925 when Mutti wins the Palme d’Or at the Universal Exposition in Paris to wining Great Taste Awards in 2020, where Mutti won seven awards which included Mutti’s Polpa, Passata and Tomato Double Concentrate all receiving a Gold Star award, and the Mutti Pelati and San Marzano taking a Gold Star in 2018. There was a time when Mutti wasn’t an easy brand to find in the UK, but finally the big players are starting to take notice; Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Ocado, Booths and Marks & Spencer have all started stocking Mutti now, and no wonder – it’s hard to go back to your budget tin when you’ve tasted these.