A tomato sauce is any of a very large number of sauces
made primarily from tomatoes, usually to be served as part
of a dish (rather than as a condiment). Tomato sauces are
common for meat and vegetables, but they are perhaps best
known as sauces for pasta dishes.
Tomatoes have a rich flavor, low liquid content, very
soft flesh which breaks down easily, and the right
composition to thicken into a sauce when they are cooked
(without the need of thickeners like roux). All of these
qualities make them ideal for simple and appealing sauces.
The simplest tomato sauces consist just of chopped tomato
flesh (with the skins and seeds optionally removed), cooked
in a little olive oil and simmered until it loses its raw
flavor, and seasoned with salt.
Water (or another, more flavorful liquid such as stock or
wine) is often added to keep it from drying out too much.
Onion and garlic are almost always sweated or sauteed at the
beginning before the tomato is added. Other seasonings
typically include basil, oregano, parsley, and possibly some
spicy red pepper or black pepper. Ground or chopped meat is
In countries such as Australia, New Zealand and in
Southern Africa, the term 'tomato sauce' is used to describe
a condiment similar to that known in the USA as 'ketchup'.
In Britain, both terms are used for the condiment.
The sauce tomate of classical
French cooking, as codified by Auguste Escoffier, consists
of salt belly of pork, onions, bay leaves, thyme, tomato
pur�e or fresh tomatoes, roux, garlic, salt, sugar, and
pepper. Many times butter and flour will be listed in the
ingredients, but those are only used to make the roux
(thickening agent). Roux is made of equal parts by weight of
flour and butter. Any extra flour or butter that is called
for in the recipe is typically an error.
The most common use of the
term tomato sauce in Australia is to describe a commercially
produced condiment similar to American ketchup, which is
used as a topping on foods such as meat pies and sausages.
"A pie and sauce" is a traditional lunch for many working
people, and is available from most takeaway food shops and
many bakeries. It is probably one of the most common
expressions to be translated into rhyming slang, in the form
of "a dog's eye and dead horse".
The misconception that the
tomato has been central to Italian cuisine since its
introduction from the Americas is often repeated. Though the
tomato was introduced from the Spanish New World to European
botanists in the 16th century, tomato sauce made a
surprisingly late entry in Italian cuisine: in Antonio
Latini's cookbook Lo scalco alla moderna (Naples, 1692).
Latini, not unsurprisingly, was chef to the Spanish viceroy
of Naples, and one of his tomato recipes is for sauce alla
spagnuola, "in the Spanish style".
Outside Italy, the role of tomato sauce has been quite
exaggerated: many people know little of Italian cuisine
beyond pasta with tomato sauce. Italian varieties of tomato
sauce range from Pasta Puttanesca sauce, seasoned with
anchovies, capers, garlic, chilli peppers and black olives,
to Bolognese sauce, a predominantly minced or ground meat
sauce which normally contains a small-to-moderate amount of
Tomato sauce was an ancient
condiment in Aztec food. The first person to write of what
may have been a tomato sauce was Bernardino de Sahag�n, who
made note of a prepared sauce that was offered for sale in
the markets of Tenochtitlan (Mexico City today). Then,
Spaniards brought the use of tomato to Europe.
Basic Mexican tomato sauces are tomato sauce (salsa de
tomate rojo o jitomate) and green tomato sauce (salsa de
tomate verde). The tomato sauce is stock for spicy sauces
In most of the U.S.,
"tomato sauce" refers to a tomato concentrate with salt,
herbs and small amounts of spices and often flavored with
meat or seafood. It is sold in bottles and cans. This
product is considered incomplete and not normally used as it
is. Instead, it is used as a base for almost any food which
needs a lot of tomato flavor, including versions of many of
the sauces described on this page. Tomato puree and and
tomato paste have FDA standards of identity (since 1939) for
percentage of tomato solids, and generally do not contain
seasonings other than salt; tomato sauce is nonstandardized.
Marinara sauce is an American-Italian term for a simple
tomato sauce with herbs�mostly parsley and basil but,
contrary to its name (which is Italian for coastal,
seafaring) without anchovies, fish or seafood. In other
countries, marinara refers to a seafood and tomato sauce.
Some Italian Americans on the East Coast refer to tomato
sauce as "gravy", "tomato gravy", or "Sunday gravy",
especially sauces with a large quantity of meat simmered in
them, similar to the Italian Neapolitan rag�. "Gravy"
is an erroneous English translation from the Italian sugo
which means juice, but can also mean sauce (as in sugo per
pastasciutta). The expression for "gravy" in Italian is sugo
dell'arrosto, which is literally "juice of a roast" and is
specifically not tomato sauce.
American supermarkets commonly carry a variety of
prepared tomato sauces described as "spaghetti sauce" or
"pasta sauce". Common variations include meat sauce,
marinara sauce and sauces with mushrooms or sweet red
A spicy tomato sauce known
as sauce piquante is common in Louisiana Cajun cuisine, that
can contain any seafood, poultry, or meats such as wild
game. It is typically served over white rice. In Louisiana
Creole cuisine, there is a tomato sauce known as a Creole
sauce. It is similar to Italian tomato sauce, but features
more Louisiana flavors derived from the fusion of French and
Spanish cooking styles. They both usually contain the
traditional holy trinity of diced bell pepper, onion, and
Tomato gravy, which is
distinct from the term as used by northeastern Italian
Americans when referring to tomato sauce, is a sauce common
in most rural areas of the United States, particularly where
tomatoes were a staple food. Tomato gravy is prepared in a
method similar to white gravy. The cooked tomatoes, some fat
(usually cured pork fat) and flour are cooked together until
thick, and seasoned with salt and pepper. Typically, tomato
gravy is served over eggs, toast and biscuits.
Indian curry, especially as it
has been exported out of India, is recognizable for heavily
spiced sauces, often made from a tomato base.
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