Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Pizza, Part Two: The Sauce

I used to be one of those people who slathered their pizza dough with store-bought tomato sauce. And I liked it. Or, I thought I did, because the truth is I was just used to its insipid taste.

But then I realized that there was actually no point in me making my own pizza dough if I was going to use ready made sauce. Something was amiss. It defied the whole purpose of the "eat-things-you-know-what-they-have-in-them" thing I got going on so I decided to start making my own.

I have never looked back. Especially when I can get my hands on some good tomatoes and make fresh tomato sauce. There are thankfully some good tomatoes left, until the end of October that is, and after that, I think I'll have to share with you my other tomato sauce, the one made with canned tomatoes.

Let's start with the fresh tomato sauce, though. This is pretty straightforward, as it should be, since pizza sauce must be a vehicle for carrying other flavors, those of the various toppings, and not be overwhelming and define the flavor of the whole pie. That of course doesn't mean that it has to be boring. Far from it.

Fresh, juicy, grated tomatoes, a little garlic, dried bay leaf and Greek oregano, extra virgin olive oil, sugar, salt, black pepper. That's it. Not that you need anything more. In making the sauce, what you essentially want is to slowly cook it down, for almost forty minutes, until most of the liquid from the tomatoes evaporates and you're left with that concentrated tomato flavor that is felt throughout when you eat a slice of the pizza.

The taste, to me, is perfection. It's exactly how I want a pizza sauce to be; a slightly caramelized fresh tomato sauce with sweet and sharp notes, highly aromatic, with a hint of garlic, a sauce with a deep flavor that is above all, delicious. Yes, this is the one for me. I hope it'll be the one for you too.

Fresh Tomato Sauce for Pizza

Don't be tempted to process or blend the tomatoes. It's best that you grate them because firstly, you get rid of their skin easily and secondly, you don't end up with a purée but with small pieces of tomatoes and their juices, which is exactly what you want.

You can most definitely serve this sauce with pasta too.

Yield: enough for 4 large pizzas

30 ml (2 Tbsp) extra virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, mashed or finely grated
4 medium-sized, vine-ripened tomatoes (500-550 g), grated on the coarse side of the grater
1 large dried bay leaf
A big pinch of dried oregano, preferably Greek
½ tsp caster sugar
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt, to taste

Special equipment: box grater

In a small saucepan, add the olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Once the oil starts to shimmer, add the mashed or finely grated garlic and sauté for a minute, being careful not to burn it and stirring constantly, until you start to smell its intoxicating aroma.
Add the grated tomatoes, the bay leaf, oregano, sugar, black pepper and salt to taste, and stir well with a spoon. Allow the sauce to come to the boil and immediately turn heat down to low.

Simmer the sauce for about 40 minutes, with the lid half on, stirring from time to time and making sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan, until most of the liquid has evaporated (you don't want a completely dry sauce) and you are left with a thick sauce.
Check the seasoning, adding more salt or pepper if you find it necessary and let the sauce cool. Then remove and discard the bay leaf.
The sauce is now ready to be slathered onto your pizza dough.

You can keep the sauce in the fridge for a day or two.

Previously: The Pizza, Part One: The Dough

Next up: Three of my favorite pizzas. Stay tuned!


  1. I've got to confess... I have never made my own tomato sauce either. I have made my own pizza before sure.. but for some reason the tomato sauce not yet. But it looks delicious and you're so right too; what's the point in making your own dough and then using the storebought tomato sauce.. On the list of things to do now!

  2. Simple and fresh... what else could be better? ~ David

  3. Grated - that is so clever. I love your tin pan, I have one just like it! Is that a tin spoon too?

  4. Grated tomatoes? Very interesting! This sauce sounds so classic and perfect for pizza. :)

  5. You're so right, if you make the effort to do your own pizza dough, why not the sauce too? This looks marvellous! :D

  6. A wonderful sauce! I also make mine from scratch. Perfect.



  7. Fresh sauce makes such a big difference on a pizza. This looks divine!

  8. I just made this sauce. It is, by far, the best pizza sauce I've ever had! Delicious!! The bay leaf makes such a difference. Thanks so much for posting all this info on making the perfect pizza. I'm attempting to break eggs over the pizza now :) With all your tips, I'm sure the pizza will come out perfect.