No, I’m not talking imbuing your spaghetti with wealth of the monetary kind, but giving your sauce that extra bit of sauciness, the sort of richness that only comes with careful cooking for hours on end or perfectly sun-dried tomatoes. Without sounding too smug (although I don’t really care if I do to be honest), I haven’t bought a jar of ready-made pasta sauce in years, instead making do with a tin of plum tomatoes and whatever seasoning I have in the cupboard.
However, tomato sauce, be it shop-bought or home-prepared, does tend to be a bit on the astringent side. Tomatoes can be tart and if you’re using the cheapest tins or cartons, add ‘watery’ to the mix. Yep, tart and watery doesn’t exactly set the taste buds alight does it? So how do you make your tomato sauce richer without devoting several days to it? Well, I’m afraid there’s no magic solution or pasta sauce witchcraft that will banish your tomato worries for good, but these are a few easy tricks that have helped me in the past…
This is especially handy of you’re using those watery tins I write about. Let’s face it, value tomatoes are very useful when it comes to saving pennies but they don’t quite match up to the more expensive brands in terms of flavour or general tomatoey-ness. One quick and easy way to add a bit more oomph is by putting too tins into the pan instead of one – make sure your heat up some olive oil first and add some crushed garlic for extra flavour (be careful not to let it brown), then tip in the tins, keep on a medium-high heat and reduce down. Leave to bubble until it is the same volume and consistency as a single tin then season with salt and pepper. Of course, using two tins means you’re spending twice the amount of money – do your calculations first and see what’s more economical, or you could make a super-concentrated sauce with two tins of pricier toms if you’re feeling really flush.
A Spoonful of Sugar
Judging from many an online forum this is very much frowned upon, although I’m not entirely sure why. Yes, it’s cheating, but surely so is using tinned tomatoes rather than fresh ones plucked straight from the vine then slow-roasted (if you’re going to be extra picky)? And yes, sugar is the big bad at the moment but surely using a controlled amount in your cooking is better than an unspecified amount in a shop-bought sauce? Anyone would think these people never use sugar in anything ever. Perhaps they don’t. Anyway personally, I don’t see anything wrong with using a spoonful of brown sugar in your tomato sauce, or if you’re really organised, you might have a jar of rosemary sugar to hand so you can use some of that instead (I am not organised so only use the former).
Plenty of Puree
Hmm, I’m a bit sceptical about the use of copious amounts of tomato puree. It’s definitely helpful but does have its drawbacks and if not cooked out enough it can leave your dish with a slight metallic taste. I used to add it to the onions/meat before I put in the tomatoes but I’ve found this makes very little difference. Instead, I now add 1-2 tablespoons as soon as the tomatoes have come to the boil to give it as much time as possible to mellow.
Better with Butter
Yay! Another unhealthy option! Any of the above methods can be improved by stirring in a large knob of butter shortly before you serve. It adds a touch of creaminess without actually making a ‘creamy’ sauce and can tone down any of those lingering astringent notes. And let’s face it, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, butter makes everything taste better.