Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Homemade Tomato Sauce

I grew up eating a limited range of Western dishes. One of them was spaghetti with meat sauce. My mom would sauté some ground meat with some vegetables, season it to her taste and add a jar of tomato sauce. It's one of the rare non-Vietnamese dishes she craves sometimes!

So clearly I never grew up with homemade tomato sauce. Actually, I only started to make it on my own fairly recently. As I was thinking of this post, I was trying to explain why you should make your own, as opposed to just buying it. Well, it may take a bit longer (not much) but it's still very easy. It could be cheaper, unless tomato sauce is on sale (like the jar below). The homemade sauce might also be healthier, definitely with less additives.

As I have read In Defense of Food (and I've just finished The Omnivore's Dilemma), I have been putting more thought into what I eat and what REAL, actual food is. I don't think I do too badly in terms of eating actual food (as opposed to processed food), but I do buy some processed food as a convenience; others, like chips or low fat pudding, because I enjoy.

It is interesting to see some of the ingredients that I can skip by making my own sauce (using canned tomatoes): modified corn starch, soybean oil and sulphites. Not too bad, although I wonder what has to be modified in the corn starch. In the canned tomatoes, there is citric acid and calcium chloride. Hmmm....

Comparison of ingredients between canned tomatoes and store bought tomato sauce.

I think it's ok to use processed food but you have to be conscious of what that involves and make a choice accordingly. If I make a time-consuming recipe, like the vegetable lasagna rolls, I am more inclined to use it out of convenience.

Homemade Tomato Sauce
In the summer, when there are fresh tomatoes, I use the same recipe with fresh tomatoes instead of canned tomatoes. I don't even bother peeling or coring them; I just chop them and add them in. You can add tomato paste to help thicken the sauce.

* oil
* 1 small onion, small diced
* 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 can tomato
* bay leaf
* 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
* fresh thyme
* fresh rosemary
* sugar (optional)
* salt, to taste
* freshly ground black pepper, to taste
* dried chili flakes

Sauté onion and garlic in a bit of oil in a large pot.
Once the onion is softened, add the tomatoes and mix.
Add a bit of water in the can, swivel it around to get any remaining tomato juice and add this to the pot.
Add Italian seasoning (or a mixture of basil, oregano, marjoram, parsley, sage), any fresh herbs and bay leaf and mix.
Bring the sauce to a boil and let simmer for 20-30 minutes until thickened.
Season to taste with salt, pepper, dried chili flakes and sugar (I like my sauce a bit sweet).
Crush the big pieces of tomatoes if you prefer for a chunky sauce or you can process for a smoother sauce (remove the bay leaf first!).
Serve with pasta and fresh basil.

Adding herbs to the sauce.

Homemade tomato sauce!

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