A while ago, I asked friends and readers on my Facebook page what they would like to make at home from scratch.
As I confessed in my earlier post, we've been making a lot of stuff at home these days. Things that we usually buy readymade are slowly being phased out. We didn't particularly like the price tags of some of them and didn't like the amount of chemicals and additives in the rest of them.
A lot of the responses were great, and I've started making and compiling the recipes already! Today, I'm super excited to start the series off with one of my favorite DIY recipes - classic pizza sauce - from scratch. This recipe uses fresh tomatoes. Because the ingredients are so easily available, I think this is an awesome recipe to have in your repertoire. I've already shared the recipe for the pesto sauce I use on pizzas. This is my go-to tomato sauce recipe.
This recipe isn't easy to standardize to precision though - mainly because the main ingredient is so inconsistent. One day you get flavorful, ripe tomatoes, and the next time you might have bland or super acidic ones. So, while the base recipe is the same, I will also share a little at the end about how you can adjust the taste of the sauce to make it taste just right.
Choosing tomatoes: For this recipe, you want the tomatoes to be ripe. Uniformly red, firm with a little give when pressed. As far as possible, try not to choose one which have green or yellow spots. Those just aren't ripe enough.
Homemade Pizza Sauce
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 large or 2 medium onions, roughly chopped into chunks
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 tsp dried oregano
3 sprigs fresh frozen basil leaves (or or frozen basil leaves, or 1.5 tsp dried basil)
1/4-2 tsp dried chilli flakes (to taste)
900g fresh, ripe tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. a. Blanching and peeling the tomatoes: In a large pasta pot or saucepan, bring about 1.5 liters of salted water (I used 4 tbsp rock salt) to the boil. b. While the water is heating up, wash the tomatoes and on the bottom of each tomato score an 'x' using a sharp paring knife. It doesn't need to be deep. Just deep enough that it cuts through the skin.
c. Make ready another bowl/saucepan with a similar amount of ice cold water - I used cold water with extra ice cubes added in.
d. When the water is at a rapid bubble, gently immerse the tomatoes and leave them in the bubbling water for about 30 seconds. Fish them out using a ladle or slotted spoon and cool them down instantly by plunging them into the bowl of iced water.
e. Leave them there for a minute or two. Using the 'x' mark on the bottom of each tomato, peel back the skin and the skin should slip right off with no difficulty.
(If the tomatoes have any raw spots, you will find that the skin doesn't come off easily in those areas. So get ripe, red tomatoes!)
f. Cut the tomatoes into halves or quarters and core the.
g. In a large blender jar, purée the tomatoes until mostly smooth. A few small chunks are fine, according to me! Set this purée aside.
2. In a large saucepan, add the oil, butter, onions and garlic. I add all these into a cold pan and then bring the heat up gently. I find this keeps the butter and the garlic from burning. Sauté these ingredients until soft and fragrant, but not brown.
3. Add the dried oregano, basil - fresh, frozen or dried,- and the red chilli flakes. Sauté until fragrant.
4. Add the puréed tomatoes, the tomato paste, sugar snd about 1/2 tsp of salt.
5. Stir well and allow to cook on a medium heat for 1-1.5 hours. I like to speed this up by using a pressure cooker and cooking it for about 30-40 minutes. Either way, you want the sauce to reduce by more than half.
6. Taste the sauce and adjust the salt. Add a dash of pepper too.
7. Adjust the thickness of the sauce. It should be a good spreading consistency. Almost ketchup-like in thickness.
8. Store in an airtight box for upto 5 days in the refrigerator and up to 3 months in the freezer.
Adjusting the flavors: As I mentioned earlier in the post, the flavor of the sauce depends on the quality and ripeness of the tomatoes you use. So here are some adjustments you can make.
1. Too bland - add a splash of vinegar, and a little extra sugar.
2. Too tart - add a tsp or two of cocoa powder. Just dilute in a little warm water so it isn't lumpy in the sauce. The cocoa adds a richness and balances out the flavors well. If needed, add a tiny bit of sugar too.
3. Too sweet (this usually doesn't happen unless you've gone overboard on the sugar) - add a splash of vinegar, some more tomato paste and some cocoa powder as mentioned a above.
Basically, vinegar, sugar and cocoa will help you adjust the flavors to get a perfectly balanced sauce. Just taste as you go!
This recipe makes enough sauce for about 6-10 pizzas that are about 9" in diameter. Of course, this depends on how much sauce you like on your pizza.
The sauce goes well with any pizza topping and we have used it for years. The blanching process can be time consuming, and I admit that I have skipped it sometimes, but you do risk getting those annoying bits of tomato peel in your mouth. If you want a smooth, perfect pizza sauce, take that extra time to blanch the tomatoes.
Make a large batch and freeze some. You'll never be tempted to buy bottle pizza sauce again!