Sometimes there is nothing better than a simple pizza. A hot crispy crust smothered with a fresh tomato sauce, sprinkled with cheese and assorted toppings. Hot from the oven, the aromas fill the room, making us even hungrier as we wait for our pie to arrive.
Last night was one of those nights when getting dinner on the table was a huge effort. The Artist has been working 10 to 12 hours a day for several weeks and gets home late and hungry. Yesterday I had an appointment that ran late. Instead of heating up the kitchen and rushing to slap something on the table, we went out for pizza.
But on those nights when I have time, I love to make my own pizza. Sometimes I buy a ready-made bread crust at the grocery store, sometimes I get a pre-made one from a local pizzeria, and when I am very energetic I make my own crust. They all result in a happy family around the dinner table.
One thing that I always make is my own homemade pizza sauce. It is so easy that there really is no excuse for not making it from scratch. You don’t even have to cook it if you don’t want to! You can throw all the ingredients in a food processor and puree them. If you want a smokier flavor, you can grill the tomatoes and onions before making the sauce. If you like heat, add some red pepper flakes or a jalapeno pepper. Make the sauce exactly the way you want it!
If you want to add fresh herbs, I suggest that you start with the basic recipe using dried herbs and then add the freshly chopped herbs right at the end or sprinkle them over the top before serving. That will give you the biggest flavor boost.
This sauce can be made all year long with canned tomatoes, but if you have a garden full of heirlooms and you are wondering what to do with them, this is an option. The best tomatoes for any sauce are “paste” tomatoes, but you can use any variety. Tomatoes other than the paste varieties have more liquid in them and will take a lot longer to cook down, but if you have patience and time, their flavor is fantastic.
If the tomatoes you are using do not have enough intensity for you, try the tubes of concentrated tomato paste. I keep them in my pantry at all times for a little boost of flavor in many dishes. In the case of tomato sauces (for pizza, pasta, etc.) add about 1 tsp to start, stir it in and taste. Add more if needed, but remember that the flavors will concentrate as the sauce reduces. That is also why you want to avoid adding all the salt up front. If you reduce it too far you can end up with an overly salty sauce.
The main challenge to homemade pizza is to get the bottom of the crust done and crispy. I don’t own a pizza stone but I do have a wire screen that works pretty darn well. If I had more storage room I would probably buy one … maybe when I get my dream kitchen, LOL.
There is another great thing about making your own sauce and pizza … kids love to help you squish the tomatoes and mix in the other ingredients. They are much more likely to eat something they have made themselves and will have bragging rights over their siblings until the next pizza night!
Have a wonderful Wednesday my friends. Mangia!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
San Marzano tomatoes are world renowned, grown primarily in Italy, and known for making the best pasta sauces. They cost more than normal canned tomatoes, but try them once and see what you think. You may agree with me that they are worth the extra cost for the impressive flavor they give to sauces. Another terrific brand sold in the U.S. is Muir Glen. Made with organic tomatoes, they are packed with flavor and are the canned tomatoes I use most often in general cooking.
Homemade Pizza Sauce
© 2011 Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook. All rights reserved.
Yield: enough sauce for about 2 to 3 pizzas
1 (28 oz) can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For a Raw Sauce: Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth, about 30 seconds. Taste and adjust seasonings. Store sauce in the refrigerator until ready to use.
For a Cooked Sauce: Pour the tomatoes into a bowl and squeeze them with your hands to crush slightly.
In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Sauté onions until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and remaining ingredients. Cook, stirring often, until slightly reduced and thickened, about 15 minutes.
Transfer to a food processor or use an immersion blender to puree sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.
To Preserve: Pour sauce into clean, hot jars and cover with hot lids. Seal jars and process in a water bath for 15 to 20 minutes or according to directions.
This recipe can be multiplied, but do not increase salt incrementally. Keep it at 1 to 2 tsp and then add more to taste at the end. It is easier to add more than to take it away!
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