Sauce it up
Pizza sauce, tomato sauce, marinara, canned, jarred, fresh ... spaghetti sauce? You could spend the better part of a day wandering around Milwaukee looking for the ideal sauce to blanket your pizza with. Plus, the farmer's markets haven't even rolled their carts into town yet. When this happens we'll have to go on another excursion to find the freshest, sun-kissed red beauties out there.
That won't be for a couple more months, so we'll just have to deal with the best alternatives, which are quite tongue tantalizing to begin with.
The overall goal to keep in mind when making fresh pizza is balance. You really don't want one particular ingredient or topping overpowering another, and this is the same when it comes down to the sauce you use. You want the sauce to state its case, but doesn't get carried away and steal the thunder from the others.
Two other factors I keep in mind as I forage various grocery store shelves for the proper sauce is cost and sodium content. I'm not a nutrition freak, but a lot of the more common toppings for pizza already have plenty of salt in them. I try to cut back on the salt content in the sauce if I can.
In the end I found out that the simplest is the really the best when it comes to sauce selection. I got turned off by the jarred varieties because they all seemed to have a ton of salt, but even more so, by their taste. They didn't taste especially fresh – they weren't bad, just not fresh tasting enough. Most of them also included some sort of Italian spices or other additives, which also stole some thunder from the tomatoes.
The canned options were much better, especially the tomato purees. They filled all of my qualifications – price, salt content and taste. The price is not significantly lower than a similar jarred sauce, just a buck or two, but it all adds up in the end. This is even more true if you get addicted to making fresh pizza, like me, and bake a couple of hundred pies a year.
Salt: virtually zero. Who wants hypertension when you're trying to enjoy your lovely pizza creation?
Last but not least, taste. Canned tomatoes absolutely sing! They are canned at the peak of their freshness and are the best alternative until the farmers roll in with their heirlooms. My only criticism when using canned tomato puree was that it's very thin with no body. Even though it tasted like sunshine it was just a little wimpy. To solve this I add a 6 oz. can of tomato paste to every 29 oz. can of tomato puree and mix these together in a separate bowl. Tomato puree with a backbone.
Recently I was wondering around Glorioso's (I must have been bored, maybe it was raining) and found a tomato puree unlike most others. It is Pagliacci brand and described as a "Pear Tomato Puree - Extra Heavy." Man! The viscosity of the puree itself is halfway between that of a typical puree and a paste. I still added a small can of paste, however, which brought the sauce's consistency to just the right thickness.
The only adulteration to my pure tomato sauce is a little bit of garlic, four minced cloves in all. Mix the cloves in well with the tomato sauce and let it marry for a little while, about an hour. This may not seem like a lot of garlic to those with a garlic fetish, but again, we are looking for balance. We are not trying to repel vampires with our breath in the middle of the night. You will notice a subtle garlic undertone after the sauce and garlic marries.
I promise you, this tomato sauce is plenty good to get us through 'til heirloom tomato time.
milwmom | April 23, 2012 at 12:20 p.m. (report)
The spice house sells powdered tomato, which is perfect for thickening any sauce. We make homemade - usually use Glen Mier whole tomatoes. Just put in a food processor, a little oil, maybe some garlic, salt, pepper...simple and delicious!
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