Fresh Tomato Sauce

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Fresh Tomato Sauce

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, high 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 such as roux). All of these qualities make them ideal for simple and appealing sauces. The simplest tomato sauces consist just of chopped tomato flesh cooked in a little olive oil and simmered until it loses its raw flavor, and seasoned with salt.

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 relatively 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”. The use of tomato sauce with pasta appears for the first time in the Italian cookbook L’Apicio moderno, by Roman chef Francesco Leonardi, edited in 1790.

Italian varieties of tomato sauce range from the very simple pasta al pomodoro to the piquant puttanesca and arrabbiata sauces. Tomato sauce with pasta can stand on its own or it can also be paired with ingredients such as Italian sausage, shrimp, meatballs or vegetables, for a more lively pasta dish.