Note: This is the second part of a series on how to make your own pizza. The first part, on making dough, can be found here.
Welcome to playtime in the kitchen. Here we’ll be looking at a form of water-based cooking, creating a pizza sauce.
All pizzas come with a sauce, and it’s nearly always based on tomatoes (Foccacia is the correct term for those “white pizzas”…).
So, let’s start with the base:
2 – 14 oz cans of tomatoes (diced or crushed)
1 – small can of tomato paste.
Some pizzerias make purely tomato paste sauces, and they’re not horrible. Nonetheless, you’ll get a bit more tomato flavor out of a couple of cans of less concentrated tomato (and a bit of a quality upgrade, to boot). Besides, you were planning on cooking the sauce down a bit — because, as I mentioned, this is water-based cooking.
A purely tomato-based sauce is drab, and a bit blah. You can throw in nearly anything you like to spice it up — so long as it’s not oil-based chemistry.
My first suggestion is onion. Chop it up a bit, or dice it fine as you please. Cook it long enough that you take most of the sulphur bite out of it, and even your onion-haters probably won’t notice.
I may be a bit unconventional here, but I like to throw some carrots in. These’ll need to be diced a bit fine (about a third of the size of your pinkie-nail), but they provide a bit of sweetness and nutrition. What’s not to like? On the pizza, they’ll provide a bit of variety (particularly important if you’re using crushed tomatoes).
You can, if you like, add a dash of green to your sauce — any of the tender greens (spinach is good — basil is better). Don’t add too much, the sauce should still look red at the end of the day.
Well, those are my basics — time for the spicing!
Tomatoes love salt — add 1 teaspoon minimum.
I like to add a little bit of dried hotpepper (dundicuts are good, and well priced) for a little pizzazz.
[If you have someone who can’t take a little heat, try using fresh bell peppers, but boil them down a bit].
I enjoy the illusion of a bit of meat in the sauce — add about a teaspoon fennel for that nice, nearly sausage taste.
Herbs are fine, particularly fresh basil.
And, if you’ve got it, about half-of-a-tomato-paste can’s worth of red wine. Now! Unless you want an excuse to open that bottle you got for Christmas that you’re never ever going to drink, use something potable but cheap (one step below plonk). I recommend a nice boxed Merlot. It’ll keep longer in the refrigerator. I hasten to add, this is a perfectly good thing to leave out, if you’re on medication or have other reasons to avoid the alcohol.
Cooking isn’t all about following recipes — this should be something you experiment with, as I have. But I hope I’ve provided some suggestions to get you started.
Things that don’t go in the sauce: Garlic, oregano, mexican oregano… and black pepper.
How to cook your sumptious sauce: Cook uncovered, on the stove, under medium-low heat (reduce it as it begin to splatter). If you use a nonstick pan, you shouldn’t need to stir much at all. It’s time to stop when the tomatoes start to spatter over the sides of the saucepan.
Makes: enough for 4 pizzas. As you might remember from my last post, my dough recipe makes enough for three pizzas. I generally make about 12 pizzas in a batch, but if you have had enough after 3, just chuck the leftover sauce in your next dish (top pasta with it, put it in casserole… use in your next daal or curry).
[Images: Cover photo, Salumi Pizza with Hot Peppers and Honey, via Tod’s Kitchen. Post photo: Pepperoni Pizza Fast Food, via Wiki Commons]