Who doesn't love pizza? A universal favourite, it's cheesy, greasy and glorious. It goes well with beer and hangovers, parties and sports nights. And most of all, it makes you feel truly loved. The perfect pizza's got ultra-crispy sides so that it holds up straight, but a soft doughy centre so that it droops its way into your mouth. I swear, every time it arrives on the dinner table, it makes my heart skip a beat: Edges golden brown, cheese melting through the gaps between the slices to the bottom of the pan, the whiff of fresh oregano and thyme and oh-my-god those rivers of sauce. If there is heaven, it's most certainly a non-stop party with pizzas.
Over the years, different varieties of pizzas have continued to multiply: There's the crisp Roman variety, the soft Italian one, the deep dish Chicago kind, stuffed crust pizzas, Neapolitan, Sicilian and what not. (And no, new-age gourmet pizzas with rocket leaves, prosciutto and a poor excuse for sauce, don't count.)
What all of these have in common, besides its soft and chewy base is thick and tangy ketchup like sauce that slips off the sides of the pizza right and falls right onto your fingers. As Jamie Oliver puts it, "In the world of pizzas there are two things that are equally important: the pizza base and the pizza sauce." A good pizza sauce with its sweet and sour vibe can make your pizza extra delicious. And that's the reason why we're going to give you a crash course in - how to make a smashing, well-seasoned and freshly cooked pizza sauce.
Let's start with the basics.
A good pasta sauce needs fresh, fully ripened and flavourful tomatoes. Chef Shamshul Wahid of Smoke House Deli says, "The San Marzano variety of tomatoes found in Italy make the best kind of tomato sauce. But since they are really difficult to source in India, we use a blend of cherry tomatoes that are a bit more acidic along with regular, medium-sized ripe tomatoes. The medium-sized tomatoes lend sweetness to the sauce and the flavor from cherry tomatoes cuts right through it, making it more savoury."
A lot of the recipes you'll find online use canned tomatoes but regular tomatoes work just as well. However, if you're looking to standardize a recipe and make it in bulk then for the sake of consistency it makes sense to use canned tomatoes. Marcella Hazan, shares a fantastic recipe for tomato sauce in her book "Essential of Italian Cooking" where she uses canned tomatoes, butter and onions. If you're using canned tomatoes that are too sweet in taste, you can add some vinegar to cut through the taste. Or you can also use fresh cherry tomatoes as they're naturally acidic. Before cooking your sauce, it's important to peel the skin off the tomatoes. You can dip them for a minute in hot water, this helps soften the skin. Another great way to mash it is to gently grate it.
Garlic, herbs & other things
Garlic is always a good match for a thick tomato sauce but to decide how much of the herbs to use, it's important to trust your taste buds. Jamie Oliver uses the stem of the basil while simmering the sauce and drops the leaves right in the end. If you're a fan of spicy food, then you can add some chilli flakes to the mix. Rosemary and thyme are also popularly used in pizza sauces, though the fresh kind come more recommended as they have more flavor. Chef Shamshul Wahid has a slightly different take on the herbs, and says "Herbs should be used to dress the pizza and not in the pizza sauce. The pizza sauce is all about the sweet and sour play of tomatoes: it creates all the romance."
Cooking the Sauce
You have to let the tomatoes cook to a point where the natural water content of the tomatoes is down to zero and the fruit's natural sugars have been caramelized. You don't want something too runny so that it doesn't stick to your dough, but you also don't want something too pulpy. If you're cooking a sauce with fresh tomatoes then you will need a cook time of about 45 to 50 minutes, allowing the sauce to simmer in an open pan. Marcella Hazan writes in her book The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking: "Never cook a sauce in a covered pan: it will emerge with a bland, steamed, weakly formulated taste." If the tomatoes seem to boiling dry, then you could add a little bit of vegetable stock or hot water.
Chef Shamshul Wahid says, "The medium-sized tomatoes needs a longer cook time but cherry tomatoes break down in a matter of minutes." You'd think canned tomatoes would cook faster but Hazan's recipe using only canned tomatoes also needs about 45 minutes on heat.
Here are some mouth-watering recipes of pizza sauce you need to try:
Marcella Hazan's recipe for pizza sauce
What you need:
2 cups of canned tomatoes
5 tablespoons butter
1 onions, peeled
How to make it:
1. Combine the tomatoes, their juices, butter and onions in a pan. Add a pinch of salt.
2. Let it cook on medium heat for about 45 minutes. Mash any bog pieces of tomatoes.
3. Strain the sauce, discard the onions and use.
You could start with a thick, ketchup like sauce and for that, Blumenthal's recipe is pure genius.
1. Remove the skin of the tomatoes by pulling them out from the stem. To make this easier, soak them in hot water for a minute. This'll let you pull back the skin easy.
2. Halve the tomatoes and scoop out the pulp with seeds and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Then, strain the seeds, take the help of a spoon if required. You should something with a thick ketchup like consistency.
Jamie Oliver's recipe for pizza sauce
What you need:
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
How to make it:
1. Heat the olive oil and put sliced garlic and basil in it.
2. 3 tins of tomatoes. Chop up the tomatoes in the pan
3. Season it with salt and pepper. Let it boil for a few minutes.
4. Strain the mix and push it through with a spoon if need be.
5. Put it back on the heat for 5 minutes.
Felicity Cloake's recipe for pizza sauce
What you need:
800 grams of tanned or ripe, fresh tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon sugar
Dash of red wine vinegar
3 stems of fresh basil
How to make it:
1. If using fresh tomatoes, blanch them in hot water for a minute and peel off the skin. Roughly chop.
2. Heat the oil in a saucepan on low heat and soften the onions for five to seven minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add the tomatoes and break them up with a wooden spoon. Add sugar, vinegar and stems of basil. Season well.
4. Let it simmer for 45 minutes till it's thick.
5. Add chopped up basil leaves if you like