Making your own tomato sauce is always nice, whether you are whipping up a quick pasta dinner, or are a big Italian food aficionado. Nothing beats a scrumptious home-made sauce… Or does it? The benefits of a ready-made tomato sauce is not only its convenience (think one jar rather than a load-full of veggies and all the seasoning you stock in your home), but also the time it saves (you would have to cook the whole lot, blend it all together, let it simmer…) and believe it or not, a reliable, authentic taste that is bound to jazz up all your tomato based recipes.
People, especially fans of home cuisine, often flee ready-made tomato sauces – wrongfully! Pick your tomato sauce well and it will be bursting with juicy ripe tomatoes, perfectly seasoned, and capable of impressing all your friends (feel free to tell them it’s home-made). Here are a few tips to choose your tomato sauce, because you can find products that vary greatly in quality. Best thing to do is follow a few suggestions, and taste some sauces from your local deli, your supermarket, or even your tips to Italy.
Aspect and texture
Whether it’s full tomatoes, pelati, crushed, polpa or coulis, passata, the sauce has to have a nice aspect. Bright red, shiny. Le texture has to be a bit dense, homogeneous and for full tomatoes the juice most remain nice, not transparent, full or too watery. Trust us, we’ve tested quite the lot.
Full, crushed, or coulis tomatoes can be used differently according to personal taste. Some good brands will offer different options prepared with the same tomatoes. Otherwise, stick to full tomatoes, you will be able to judge quality better.
A good sauce smells nice but most importantly has a lovely tomato taste! It’s not exactly fresh tomato, but the essence is there, with the slight acidity but also the smoothness. Here too, the flavour has to be intense, fresh. If too insipid or watery, it’s not a good sauce. As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t have to add sugar or other sweeteners and tastes after cooking: the sauce shouldn’t stay sour.
You may prefer plain tomato sauce (no fussy seasoning) just because it’s often the best (no distracting tastes), it’s neutral and can go with anything. If you don’t have anything at home to season, just add olive oil, a bit of garlic or onion and a sprinkle or oregano. But then, choose correctly and you can also find really nice seasoned sauces.
Try to avoid discount sauces, they could be full of artificial flavours and preservatives to make them super cheap to buy. Count anywhere from about £1.20 to £5 for good quality. Obviously artisan or organic can be more expensive. Careful, the same product can cost more in a small delis or caterers than in supermarkets, so it’s worth having a browse.
Don’t try and make extreme savings on tomato sauce, you would be disappointed. You find enough tasteless tomatoes, at least treat yourself with some tasty sauce! Usually for good brands, tomatoes are of good quality, are grown in fields or traditional greenhouses with soil, wind, sunshine… They are picked when ripe, and are already delicious even when unprepared.
A few suggestions
As a top choice we suggest Dolmio Bolognese Sauce. With each jar containing 87% of tomatoes (full and paste) in total, plus tasty basil, onion and other seasoning, and no preservatives or articifical flavours, Dolmio is about as close to natural, dreamy Italian tomato sauce as you’ll get.
Try also Heinz Tomato and Sweet Basil Pasta Sauce. It has a good balance of tomato and herbs and is very natural, if containing a bit too much sugar.
Visit you local Italian deli or order online for some cans shipped straight from Italy! Do keep an eye on the list of ingredients, and choose high proportions of tomatoes, and natural seasoning. Visit www.delicatezza.co.uk and try the Tomato & Basil sauce from Prunotto Mariangela organic farm.