We’re back again with the next installment of: Know Your Italian Tomatoes! Today we’ll be discussing everything you need to know about two varieties of Costoluto tomatoes (Genovese and Fiorentino) – including what to cook with them and how to get your hands on them.
Costoluto means “ribbed” in Italian, and the defining characteristic of these sister varieties is their appearance: flattened shape and deep ribs or “ruffles” that are often quite asymmetrical. They almost look like a boxer’s cauliflower ear. They’re not likely to win any beauty pageants, but that’s ok because we all know it’s what’s on the inside that counts! And what’s on the inside is an incredibly delicious flavor.
These tomatoes are both classified as heirloom beefsteak varieties. The name beefsteak refers to the fact that they are meaty – there is a lot of flesh and not a lot of seeds. Also they’re very large in stature. These are some of the largest tomatoes grown in Italy, and can easily grow to be larger than a softball and weigh up to a pound each.
The Costoluto Genovese originates in Genoa in the region of Liguria, in the northwest of the country. These tomatoes are a bit larger than their Fiorentino counterparts and are often slightly sweeter. They typically range from These tomatoes have an interesting historical fact – it was one of the varieties grown at Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello in the early 1800s.
The Costoluto Fiorentino originates in Florence in the region of Tuscany, in the north-central part of the country. These tomatoes are a bit flatter and smaller than their Genovese counterparts, and are often slightly less sweet.
Costoluto Genovese & Costoluto Fiorentino Nutrition
There isn’t a huge amount of variation in the nutritional profile of different types of tomatoes.
All tomatoes are famous for being high in lycopene – an antioxidant known to have positive effects on aging and inhibit certain types of cancer. Unless you’re on an acid-restricted diet tomatoes are great for you, and costolutos are definitely included in that list.
Costolutos are definitely one of the sweeter varieties of tomato, so expect a bit higher sugar content.
What Recipes are best with Costoluto Genovese and Costoluto Fiorentino tomatoes?
There are many, many dishes that either type of costolutos would be appropriate for. First and foremost are fresh tomato recipes. These tomatoes have such a great taste and texture you can eat them like tomatoes. They’ll obviously be excellent for classic dishes like Bruschetta and Caprese salad.
Just because they’re great fresh doesn’t mean they’re not wonderful for cooking though – especially in sauces and soups. I haven’t done it yet, but would love to try making passata with them.
Here are some links to recipes that would be great with Costoluto tomatoes…
- Bruschetta Trio
- Caprese salad (An Italian In My Kitchen)
- Pasta al Pomodoro (Nonna box)
- Pappa al Pomodoro (Vincenzo’s Plate)
Costoluto Genovese & Costoluto Fiorentino Substitute
It goes without saying that these two tomatoes are completely and totally interchangeable. They’re so similar you’d have a tough time telling them apart in a blind taste test unless you happen to be a super-taster.
Let’s say you see them in a recipe but can’t find either – this is no problem. Honestly, you’re more likely to have the other problem – you have gotten your hands on some delicious costolutos and you want to substitute them into a recipe that calls for another type of tomato. In either case, here are a handful of ideal substitutes:
- Costoluto Pachino – very similar to the Costoluto Genovese and Fiorentino, this is another large, ribbed tomato that grows in Sicily. This is a perfect drop-in
- Cuore di Bue – another Italian beefsteak variety, this has the lowest acidity of any Italian tomato but is pretty similar in size, shape, and texture to the costolutos
- Pantano – a large, fleshy tomato with low acid, very few seeds, and an incredible taste. The tops may stay green even when fully ripe, so there’d be a bit of an interesting color.
- Red Pear Franchi – another beefsteak that’s great for slicing, low acidity, very fleshy with few seeds, and sweet.
- Cherokee Purple – Not Italian, but a beefsteak variety originating in North Carolina. As the others, large, fleshy, small seed pockets. This is named after a coloration that “looks like a leg bruise” – it’s much darker both inside and out, and keeps some dark green mottled color even after fully ripening.
- Brandywine – Another beefsteak tomato originating in the US, this tomato has a pink-red color inside and out with green shoulders. It’s a bit more acidic than most of the others, but similarly has low seeds and is an excellent sweet flavor.
Where to Buy Costoluto Genovese & Costoluto Fiorentino Tomatoes
Your best bet at getting your hands on some Costoluto tomatoes will probably be to find them at a farmers’ market. As an heirloom variety, you’re unlikely to find these at your local grocery store so hopefully the local farmers in your area like growing a wide array of varieties. Even if you don’t see any for sale, it wouldn’t hurt to ask folks selling heirloom tomatoes if they are familiar with them and if they know anyone that may have them.
If you don’t have a great farmers’ market nearby, your next best bet would be to go to your favorite Italian restaurant and asking the chef. They’re likely to have a connection for less common Italian ingredients and may be able to hook you up. Yeah, it almost sounds like a drug deal.
The best bet of all is to grow your own. More on that below
I have yet to find a single seller of canned or jarred costoluto tomatoes. This may be a sign of a great business opportunity. Watch this space 🙂
How to grow Costoluto Genovese and Costoluto Fiorentino tomatoes
If you live in a climate that can grow tomato plants, I’d highly recommend growing your own. It’s a labor of love, but nothing is better than picking a tomato off a plant and eating it that day.
Sowing tomatoes directly in the ground is not at all advisable. Start the seeds in starter pots with starter soil, 1/4″ deep in moist but not damp soil. At 2″ tall you’ll probably want to transplant them into 4″ pots. This should help to avoid the seedlings getting root bound before transplanting.
The seeds don’t like cold soil. If you’re not starting the seedlings in a heated building a heating pad can really help. Make sure the soil temps are between 70-90°F.
After spotting the first set of true leaves, be sure to fertilize regularly. Use 1/2 strength organic fertilizer until transplanting.
They’ll be safe to transplant when the overnight low temp doesn’t drop below 55°F. If everything is timed perfectly, the seedlings should be about 7-8 weeks old, or 5-6″ tall.
Plant them deeply in the soil – you can bury the bottom 2/3rds of the plant in the soil. Tomato plants are really cool, the little white “hairs” on the stem are called trichomes and will become roots if they detect they’re buried.
Staking or wire cages should be set up when first transplanted – this will help the plants stay off the ground when the tomatoes grow heavy.
Pick a spot with full sun exposure. The more sun, the better. Plants should be planted about 2 to 3 feet apart.
The soil should ideally be amended with aged manure or compost if available, or granular organic fertilizer if not. You’ll want to continuously provide fertilizer as they grow.
Surround the plants with lots of mulch to help retain moisture in the soil and prevent overheating in hot climates. These plants are generally pretty tolerant of heat, but production can drop if they overheat. You might need to set up a sunshade if the daytime temperature breaks 100 regularly.
Costoluto varieties are indeterminant plants, meaning they will continue to grow and produce as long as the conditions (temperature, sunlight, water, nutrients) allow.
As soon as a tomato turns fully red and has a little give to it when you squeeze it (gently!) then that thing is ripe. This should most likely take around 80-90 days. Costoluto Genovese are probably slightly quicker on average than Costoluto Fiorentino.
Costoluto seeds are really easy to find online. Here are a few places you can buy seeds online if your local nursery doesn’t carry them…
Where to Buy Costoluto Genovese Seeds:
Where to Buy Costoluto Fiorentino Seeds: