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Chef Essentials: Tomato Sauce

Chef Essentials: Tomato Sauce

The Culinary Institute of America

A basic formula for 1 gal/3.84 L Tomato Sauce

10 to 12 lb/4.54 to 5.44 kg fresh tomatoes or 9 lb/4.08 kg canned tomatoes

2 fl oz/60 mL oil or other cooking fat

12 oz/340 g minced onions and/or 1 oz/28 g garlic

Salt and pepper

Additional ingredients or preparations (depending on your formula or intended use): tomato purée and/or paste, carrots or mirepoix, fresh and/or dried herbs, smoked meats, stock, thickeners (roux or pure starch slurries)

1. Cook the onions until tender and to the desired color before adding the tomatoes Sweat or sauté the aromatic vegetables gently to release their flavor into the fat to help the flavor permeate the sauce. The way the vegetables are cooked influences the flavor of the finished sauce: The vegetables are usually sweated in a fat until they become tender, but for a more complex roasted flavor, they may be sautéed until lightly browned.

2. Add the tomatoes and any remaining ingredients and simmer until the flavor is fully developed. Stir frequently, skimming and tasting throughout the cooking time. If desired, add fresh herbs just before the sauce has finished cooking. (A fresh chiffonade of basil is added above.) Cooking time varies, depending on the ingredients, but in general, the less cooking time, the better for any sauce based on fruits or vegetables. Extended cooking diminishes the fresh flavors. Most tomato sauces should be cooked just long enough for the flavors to meld together. If a tomato sauce that is not going to be puréed is too watery, strain and reduce the excess liquid separately to avoid overcooking. Stir tomato sauce frequently throughout preparation, and check the flavor occasionally. If it becomes necessary to correct a harsh or bitter flavor, sweat a small amount of chopped onions and carrot and add them to the sauce. If the flavor is weak, add a small amount of reduced tomato paste or purée. Too much sweetness may be corrected by adding stock, water, or more tomatoes. Purée the sauce, if desired. If using a blender, a small amount of oil added during puréeing will emulsify the sauce, creating a lighter yet thicker consistency.

Check the balance and seasoning of the sauce and make any necessary adjustments to its flavor and consistency by adding salt, pepper, fresh herbs, or other ingredients as indicated by the recipe. At this point, the sauce is ready to be served, or it may be finished for service as desired (see recipes), or it may be cooled and stored.