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Lemon in Italian red sauce?


steakas
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My mother-in-law is part Italian and was raised with Italian cooking. My mother isn't Italian. Both make very good red sauce. However my mother adds lemon juice to her sauce. Both my wife and mother-in-law say lemon is a big "no-no". In fact, they both laugh about it.

I don't know??? Please give me your thoughts...

Thanks,

:Dave

:D

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I am not Italian so what do I know. I have never seen a recipe that included lemon juice. I have spritzed a bit of lemon into a red sauce when it seemed a little "flat." I have also made a red sauce recipe that included diced preserved lemon but that was probably more of a North African recipe. Quite a nice combination as I recall. (Not that far from Italy, though.)

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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I've never seen or heard of lemon in a traditional Italian tomato sauce, but that doesn't mean it couldn't be good. It certainly is very good in a tomato based shrimp cocktail sauce not to mention tomato juice.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

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Never heard of lemon in tomato sauce either. I would say it is most definitely not an Italian thing. you might find lemon rind used in some traditional sauces - mostly tomato-less, though gremolata is an exception- but I can't recall seeing juice used anywhere. On the other hand I would not say it is a no-no before I have a taste :wink: .

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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I'm not Italian either but I too have been known to utilize lemons to add some 'brightness' to dull overcooked paste/puree sauces.

Ideally, the brightness in my sauce should come from the tomatoes, but sometimes the canned puree/paste isn't quite up to snuff. When that occurs, I may reach for a lemon. Not enough for anyone to ever say "hmmmmm... there's lemon in this," though.

Edited by scott123 (log)
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lemon is  used heavily in neopolitan style itialian cooking. they put it in everything. they put in soups, stews, pastas. so i wouldn't be surprised if they put it in their tomato sauce. i'm saying they do but they could.

chef koo,

being a Napoletano myself I can say that the above information is not correct. Neapolitan cooking uses lemon very sparingly, and mostly in sweets. The situation is different if you move to the islands of Capri and Procida or the Amalfi coast, where beautifull giant lemons are grown. Even there lemon is not used everywhere, rather only in particular dishes, and then everything (zest, juice, even the leaves), or eaten thinly sliced as a salad.

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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I do use lemon juice in an Italian sauce I make for fish that has tomato, but it is not a tomato sauce. Olive oil, garlic, onion, fresh oregano, anchovy, chopped black olive, tomato, lemon juice. Pan sear fresh tuna steaks and finish briefly in this sauce. Looking for balance in this one, taste each ingredient.

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Many years ago, I lived with a Neapolitan family (in Naples) for a while. They taught me to cook a number of wonderful things, including their tomato sauce. They most definitely did not put lemon in the sauce. In fact, they did not make one of those heavy longcooked tomato sauces that we stereotype as neapolitan. The basic recipe was chopped, very ripe (maybe overripe) tomatoes with olive oil, garlic, basil, and sometimes a splash of red wine. This was cooked for maybe 20 minutes or so.

They did squeeze lemon over pasta with olive oil and garlic though.

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In fact, they did not make one of those heavy longcooked tomato sauces that we stereotype as neapolitan. The basic recipe was chopped, very ripe (maybe overripe) tomatoes with olive oil, garlic, basil, and sometimes a splash of red wine.

They did squeeze lemon over pasta with olive oil and garlic though.

There's even a pasta dish with raw tomatoes in the Campania.

In summertime when I can find ripe heirlooms, I peel them and I use to sautee them for no longer than 2-3 minutes to preserve the fresh taste.

Lemon juice with tomatio sauce? For sure it's not Italian, but why not? Some people prefer Pomerol mixed with Coke, I was told.

Edited by Boris_A (log)

Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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lemon is  used heavily in neopolitan style itialian cooking. they put it in everything. they put in soups, stews, pastas. so i wouldn't be surprised if they put it in their tomato sauce. i'm saying they do but they could.

chef koo,

being a Napoletano myself I can say that the above information is not correct. Neapolitan cooking uses lemon very sparingly, and mostly in sweets. The situation is different if you move to the islands of Capri and Procida or the Amalfi coast, where beautifull giant lemons are grown. Even there lemon is not used everywhere, rather only in particular dishes, and then everything (zest, juice, even the leaves), or eaten thinly sliced as a salad.

one of my teachers at school was napoletano and that's what he told me. maybe i heard wrong

bork bork bork

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There is no "one" cuisine. Even within a houshold, people prepare things differently. I am sure some people do use lemon. It makes no sense to me though. Most tomato sauces need to be adjusted because they are too acidic. Adding lemon juice would likely add acidity without adding a lemon flavor. If you wanted to add lemon flavor without the acidity, you could add zest. There is no reason in my book to add juice to a big pot of marinara.

Pan sauces are different. Sure I have used diced tomato in a fish sauce and added lemon. For instance: A pan seared fish with a lemon basil butter sauce that has diced tomato thrown in.

I use my marinara as a mother sauce to derive many other dishes. For instance: Mussels marinara. I would use my marinara wine, garlic, butter, and herb elements. Zest would be welcome, but probably not juice, unless the marinara was frightfully flat.

Bottom line is: Give the sauce what it needs. To this point, I have not needed lemon in my base marinara.

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chef koo,

being a Napoletano myself I can say that the above information is not correct. Neapolitan cooking uses lemon very sparingly, and mostly in sweets. The situation is different if you move to the islands of Capri and Procida or the Amalfi coast, where beautifull giant lemons are grown. Even there lemon is not used everywhere, rather only in particular dishes, and then everything (zest, juice, even the leaves), or eaten thinly sliced as a salad.

one of my teachers at school was napoletano and that's what he told me. maybe i heard wrong

Maybe he was talking of the cuisine of the region closer to Naples too. That would definitely be closer to the truth.

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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