Food & Drink

Tomato Sauce Recipes

In The Italian Kitchen, acclaimed chef and cookbook author Marco Canora teaches viewers to cook classic Italian dishes. First, Marco prepares his two "quick" tomato sauces, a Summer Tomato Sauce -- great to make in July and August when tomatoes are in peak season -- and a Canned Tomato Sauce. The preparation method for the two sauces is similar and each takes less than 30 minutes. He starts off the Summer Fresh Tomato Sauce by coring and scoring the tomatoes. To loosen the skins, he submerges the tomatoes in boiling water for just about 30 seconds to blanch them, and then shocks them by putting them in a bowl of ice water. At this point, the skin should easy peel off. He halves the skinned tomatoes, squeezes most of their seeds out and then roughly chops them. Next, he thinly slices two cloves of garlic (thinly sliced garlic will release more flavor than thick slices, he explains).

He then preheats a pan with oil, adds the garlic and sautees until the garlic has started to brown (but not burn); then he adds the tomatoes and turns the heat up to high. The goal in cooking the tomatoes is to evaporate as much of their water as possible in order to concentrate the flavors of the tomato. Once the tomatoes are soft -- you cannot feel any firm resistance with the back of your spoon -- and the sauce looks cohesive enough to coat pasta (for example), your sauce is close to ready. Marco then turns off the heat, tears fresh basil leaves into large pieces and adds them to the pan along with cracked pepper, and then tastes the sauce to see whether he needs to add any salt.

For the Quick Canned Tomato Sauce, Marco adds four or five tablespoons of olive oil to a skillet, and then adds a thinly sliced garlic clove, dried Sicilian oregano leaves and crumbled peperoncini (hot peppers from Italy). (If you can't find dried oregano imported from Italy, any other oregano will do.) He turns the heat to medium-high and cooks the mixture to let the ingredients infuse the oil with flavor. Once the garlic is fragrant, he adds the tomatoes to the pan in a single layer, breaking them up with his fingers to release their juices and reduce the size of the chunks. He cooks the tomatoes until they've softened (about ten minutes) and then squishes them using the tines of a fork. Once the liquid has mostly evaporated and the tomatoes have turned to a dark shade of red, Marco adjusts to taste with salt and pepper.

Lastly, Marco demonstrates a different cooking technique to make his Tuscan Tomato Sauce, which takes at least two hours to cook but only about ten minutes of active preparation. He starts by making a sofrito -- an onion, celery and carrot mixture, minced and cooked in oil -- which is the foundation of many Italian dishes. He prepares this mixture by mincing the three vegetables in a food processor, and then cooking them in a pot with oil over really high heat. This level of heat will fry the vegetables and quickly eliminate their water content, which will prevent them from steaming in their own juices. After the vegetables have reduced by about one third and have taken on a bronze hue, he adds two quarts of tomato purée to the pot. (For this recipe, it's fine if the tomatoes are from a jar or can -- in fact, often canned tomatoes have a better flavor than fresh.) Once the sauce comes to a boil, he lowers the heat to reduce it to a simmer, seasons very lightly with a little salt, and leaves the sauce to cook for at least two hours, stirring occasionally. The sauce will darken and concentrate, and after it is done cooking, he'll season again with a little salt and pepper.