Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Tomato Sauce for Pasta


Anna N
 Share

Recommended Posts

Over here we are talking about things that we would rather make than buy. More than one member has asserted that buying pasta sauce is "silly". I buy pasta sauce because the commercial stuff actually clings to the pasta. Whenever I have attempted to make it I end up with a very tasty sauce that refuses to cling to the pasta. No I don't add oil to the pasta water or rinse the pasta. What is the secret to making a tasty tomato sauce that actually clings to the pasta? If I can solve this problem then I will add pasta sauce to my list of things I'd rather make than buy. :smile:

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think the trick is to cook the tomatoes down quite a bit without burning them of course--you just want to concentrate them by cooking the water out. Usually if I want a quick sauce, I give myself two options garlic and oil or onion and butter. I take whole canned tomatoes and separate them from their juice (I usually just drink this), then crush them (usually roughly with a stick blender, but you can use your hands of course). Don't use already crushed tomatoes--crushing the whole tomatoes allows you to control the amount of water in your tomatoes--I think this is crucial. I then either cook some garlic slivers in oil with a bit of crushed pepper then add the slightly thick, slightly chunky puree I've made or do it Hazan style and put it in a cold pan with half an onion and some butter (2 T for 14oz and I scale up from there). Then I cook the water out of the sauce until it's very thick (I cook the oil/garlic one pretty fast, the onion/butter pretty slow), season, and toss. Depending on the heat and amount of sauce I'm making I can do the oil/garlic in about 15 minutes and the butter/onion in about 35-45.

nunc est bibendum...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with cooking the sauce down to the appropriate thickness. I do use pre-crushed Italian tomatoes.

A properly thickened tomato sauce seems to say when it is ready (it starts spitting incendiary tomato, think volcanic hot mud and the way it bubbles and spits). The Italians probably have a word for this but I don't know what it is.

You need to stir it to keep it from sticking but not continually as you will then miss the signs that it is ready.

Try this and the sauce should not only stick to your pasta but also develop the sweet-sourness of properly cooked tomatoes.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Somewhere, Marcella Hazan refers to this as cooking the sauce until the oil shows through (or something like that). I couldn't find the reference when I looked for it just now, but I know if made a big impression on me, because that's what I always look for now. It's also important to use enough oil in the pan -- a teaspoon won't do it; you need the oil (or butter) to help coat the pasta.

This doesn't have to be a long process -- I make pasta sauces in an large open, straight-sided frying pan. Fresh tomato sauces are the quickest -- 15 to 20 minutes. Another 5 to 10 minutes for canned whole tomatoes, plus a bit more time (and a cover) for diced tomatoes, which are really firm, and take a while to break down.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Somewhere, Marcella Hazan refers to this as cooking the sauce until the oil shows through (or something like that). I couldn't find the reference when I looked for it just now, but I know if made a big impression on me, because that's what I always look for now. It's also important to use enough oil in the pan -- a teaspoon won't do it; you need the oil (or butter) to help coat the pasta.

This doesn't have to be a long process -- I make pasta sauces in an large open, straight-sided frying pan. Fresh tomato sauces are the quickest -- 15 to 20 minutes. Another 5 to 10 minutes for canned whole tomatoes, plus a bit more time (and a cover) for diced tomatoes, which are really firm, and take a while to break down.

I think I've seen this referenced in several of Marcella's recipes but this one for sure: Celery and Tomato Pasta Sauce in her book Marcella Cucina p. 133.

NOTE: As tomatoes cook down and their watery part evaporates, the fat you have used begins to run clear. When you skim the surface of the sauce with the side of a wooden spoon, or wipe away the sauce with the spoon from the bottom of a skillet, you see clear fat following the spoon's trail, an indication that the tomato is done.

John DePaula
formerly of DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
--------------------
When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

. . . .

I think I've seen this referenced in several of Marcella's recipes but this one for sure: Celery and Tomato Pasta Sauce in her book Marcella Cucina p. 133.

NOTE: As tomatoes cook down and their watery part evaporates, the fat you have used begins to run clear. When you skim the surface of the sauce with the side of a wooden spoon, or wipe away the sauce with the spoon from the bottom of a skillet, you see clear fat following the spoon's trail, an indication that the tomato is done.

How very interesting. That is the sign I look for when cooking Indian dishes that call for tomatoes! Just never made the leap from Indian to Italian!

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I add a small can of tomato paste just after I sautee the onions and other aromatics, let it thicken and then deglaze and add the tomatoes. I think this gives it not only a deeper tomato flavor, but also thickens the sauce and makes it a bit more unctuous.

"Life is a combination of magic and pasta." - Frederico Fellini

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I add a small can of tomato paste just after I sautee the onions and other aromatics..

I do that too. It seems to make the sauce come together that much better, and it's good when I don't have to time to really slow-cook it down to a thicker consistency.

Sautéing with or just after the aromatics cooks some of the canned flavour out of the paste and gives it real depth. I like to sauté it nice and slow to build up the flavours when I have the time.

Edited by Shamanjoe (log)

"...which usually means underflavored, undersalted modern French cooking hidden under edible flowers and Mexican fruits."

- Jeffrey Steingarten, in reference to "California Cuisine".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Pasta shape is obviously important. Scooping boiled noodles directly into the sauce helps.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Pasta shape is obviously important. Scooping boiled noodles directly into the sauce helps.

You took the words right off my fingers. Shapes with a few wiggles and whirls help trap the sauce, and I always dress the pasta in the sauce pot.

Another factor I've noticed is the doneness of the pasta. Al dente became synonymous with barely cooked pasta, and that's not what it means, really. Flabby pasta is awful, but I've found that cooking the pasta "enough" roughens up the surface a little and helps the sauce cling.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Al dente also means not quite done, but in the sense that you take it out of the water, and finish that last little bit of cooking in the sauce itself, so that it soaks up some of the flavour and helps it stay together.

"...which usually means underflavored, undersalted modern French cooking hidden under edible flowers and Mexican fruits."

- Jeffrey Steingarten, in reference to "California Cuisine".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For the kind of tomato sauce that cooks for a long time, I toss the pasta with a small amount of sauce and let it sit over low heat for a minute or so to absorb the flavor of the sauce, and then spoon more sauce over the pasta on the plate if needed, and that works well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another factor I've noticed is the doneness of the pasta. Al dente became synonymous with barely cooked pasta, and that's not what it means, really. Flabby pasta is awful, but I've found that cooking the pasta "enough" roughens up the surface a little and helps the sauce cling.

While we're on this topic, try to get "artisan made" pastas that have typically been pressed through a bronze die. You will see roughness on the surface of the uncooked pasta. When cooked, this provides an uneven surface to which the sauce can cling.

Edited by nickrey (log)

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for all the hints and advice. I will be making yet another attempt to produce a tomato sauce that clings to my pasta.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

Link to comment
Share on other sites

While we're on this topic, try to get "artisan made" pastas that have typically been pressed through a bronze die. You will see roughness on the surface of the uncooked pasta. When cooked, this provides an uneven surface to which the sauce can cling.

The difference with the "artisan" pastas is that the bronze die hasn't been coated with Teflon. The hard flour actually abrades down the die over time, giving it that rougher texture. In essence, the pasta is texturing itself. The major companies started Teflon-coating their dies because it made them last longer, but I agree the old-school non-Teflon coated ones make a pasta with more character, and it definitely holds on to the sauce better.

"...which usually means underflavored, undersalted modern French cooking hidden under edible flowers and Mexican fruits."

- Jeffrey Steingarten, in reference to "California Cuisine".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's my red sauce recipe. It's very thick, sometimes too thick, but everyone loves it! (Tonight I'm using the left over sauce from Wednesday's pasta as a base for pizza.)

Ingredients

(makes enough to serve 4-8)

1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes (or 6-8 fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced)

1 6 oz can of tomato paste

1 tsp Italian seasoning belnd

1 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 tbs sugar

2 medium garlic cloves, minced

1 medium onion, fine diced

1 large carrot, peeled and fine diced

1 large celery rib, fine diced

1/4 cup sweet marsala wine

1 tbs olive oil

1/2 lb lean ground beef

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, saute the onions, carrots and celery in the olive oil until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Add in the seasoning blend and garlic and sauté another minute or so. Stir in the marsala to deglaze the pan, then add the tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, pepper and sugar, stiring well to combine. Bring back to a simmer and stir in the ground beef, breaking it into small pieces. Simmer on low for another 30-40 minutes.

Mark

My eG Food Blog

www.markiscooking.com

My NEW Ribs site: BlasphemyRibs.com

My NEWER laser stuff site: Lightmade Designs

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I use Marcella Hazan's recipe for tomato sauce, which, as noted previously, produces a nicely thick sauce. The key to her recipe, I think is the 1/4 cup or so of olive oil she calls for. It seems to help bind the pasta to the tomato sauce. I've never needed to add paste to the finished sauce, it's always perfect. I use plain old De Cecco pasta, and finish the pasta for a minute tossed in the sauce in the saucepan over the flame. The pasta absorbs the sauce a bit.

I also use a decent quality canned tomato - some of the no-name brands are just too watery. I don't use San Marzano or anything, Italian brands in general seem to do fine.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I make a very simple tomato sauce - just butter, onion, a bit of garlic, and whole canned tomatoes, and puree it with a stick blender because I like the texture better. When I actually am making a pasta dish it is a versatile sauce that I can add additional ingredients to to suit the dish. This is also when I reduce it so it clings to the pasta.

I usually prep the sauce in a second pan while the pasta is cooking, adding any additons and reducing, then toss in the almost-finished pasta and a little of the pasta water and then reduce that to the final consistancy while the pasta finishes cooking. I find that this has really helped me achieve a totally integrated dish like I would find in a resturant, vs a dish of pasta with some sauce on top of it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I make 'ragu' the old fashion way. I always start with that scene in my head from the G-d father, you know the one, its where Clemenza is showing Michael how to make sauce to feed a bunch of guys when they go to the mattresses ? :smile:

I used some of my sauce today to make a lasagna.

Anyway, I start by sautéing in olive oil, chicken thighs, pork neck bones and beef shanks, I want meat with bones for flavor.

Take out the meat, add onions to pot, sauté till translucent and then add canned Roma tomatoes which I have run thru a tomato press. I used to push them thru a strainer to make sure I got every last seed out. Its too much work so I use the press and get 75% of the seeds out and try not crush whatever seeds are left so the sauce is not bitter. I add back the meat, fresh garlic, and dried basil, oregano, rosemary. Bring it all to a rolling boil and then simmer for hours, stirring every 15 minutes minimum.

Never use tomato paste, it is too harsh tasting for me, I let the sauce cook down.

I use at lest two big cans, 108 oz ea of peeled canned tomatoes. Its a lot of work and I only want to do it every 4 or 5 months.

I make a lot, freeze 3/4 and it is totally worth all the effort.

edited for grammar & spelling. I do it 95% of my posts so I'll state it here. :)

"I have never developed indigestion from eating my words."-- Winston Churchill

Talk doesn't cook rice. ~ Chinese Proverb

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I use Marcella Hazan's recipe for tomato sauce, which, as noted previously, produces a nicely thick sauce. The key to her recipe, I think is the 1/4 cup or so of olive oil she calls for. It seems to help bind the pasta to the tomato sauce. I've never needed to add paste to the finished sauce, it's always perfect. I use plain old De Cecco pasta, and finish the pasta for a minute tossed in the sauce in the saucepan over the flame. The pasta absorbs the sauce a bit.

I also use a decent quality canned tomato - some of the no-name brands are just too watery. I don't use San Marzano or anything, Italian brands in general seem to do fine.

Thanks, Erin -- I was hoping you'd see this post. I knew you'd remember the details of Marcella's recipe much better than I could! - L.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When the pasta is ready, put the pasta into the sauce then a good pat of butter. Turn off the heat and toss in the pan. The butter will help the sauce stick to the pasta. Done properly even a chunky sauce will stick. The key is to have the right viscosity of sauce which takes practice. Heating the sauce in the pan allows fast reducing (and is easy to control)-add chicken stock if you need to loosen.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Actually, I just made that theory up out of thin air. But it seems to me if you tried the same thing - reducing a can of plain tomatoes down and tossing pasta in it - without the oil, the tomatoes wouldn't achieve the right consistency. Would they?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'll bet you are overcooking your pasta. I've found that sauce thickness and methods of production, while important, matter less than how I treat pasta itself. More like, there is equal responsibility between the two- the pasta water must be well salted and brought to a high boil, the pasta cooked only until al dente, drained very well and not rinsed and not allowed to cool (you can toss the pasta back in the now empty pot they were cooked in and toss them gently until the noodles feel tacky), finished in the sauce with a touch of reserved pasta-water. And sure, the better the pasta, the better results you'll have, but, for those of limited budgets like myself, de cecco and barilla seem to work fine.

There's also absorption style to consider, and this: http://fifthflavor.blogspot.com/2009/04/how-to-cook-pasta-without-boiling.html

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...