A lot of people believe that tomato sauce is inherently Italian, which isn’t true, but I can understand the misconception. When I first saw that tomato sauce was included in the Mother Sauces I thought, “I’M GOING TO PUT IT ALL OVER SOME PASTAAAAA.” While it’s true that a lot of Americanized Italian cooking contains tsunamis of tomato sauce, the Italians (and Europe in general) have little to do with its development.
Tomato sauce started where its base, the tomato, originated: in ancient South America. But duh, right? What would ever make us think that tomatoes, an exotic fruit, would have sprouted in Western Europe? I mean, that’s like saying pineapples originated under the sea, which is just LUDICROUS.
Anyway, the ancient South Americans used to develop salsas and spicy tomato pastes to flavor rice, beans and maize as well as various pickled, dried and smoked meats and Tostidos. Tomato sauce as we know it is very mild, but the South Americans loaded their sauces up with delicious chiles and peppers which I’m betting made going to the bathroom an exciting experience for them.
It wasn’t until much later in the 16th century that Spain and Italy started growing their own tomatoes, but just for aesthetic purposes. It wasn’t until almost a century later that they were actually eaten due to an initial belief that tomatoes were poison. And thank the freak lord of tuna that they aren’t, because I love me some tomatoes. My GI specialist said I shouldn’t eat them because of my unfortunate bout of esophagitis and hiatal hernial, but who is he to tell me what to do? He should stick to things he knows, like old people’s stomach and butt issues, and I’ll stick to what I know, which is appeasing my tongue.
To make the tomato sauce, you will first need the following:
- 10 Roma tomatoes, peeled or two 28 oz cans of whole peeled tomatoes if you’re a cheater
- 1 1/2 cups tomato puree
- 5 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Spanish or yellow onion, diced
- 10 fresh basil leaves (add or subtract based on taste)
- salt and pepper to taste
First, if you didn’t cheat, you’ll want to either blanche or freeze your tomatoes. Doing either will make it much easier to peel them. To blanche, boil a large pot of water and set aside a separate pot of cold water with ice. Once the hot water boils, add your tomatoes and cook for about 2 minutes, or until the pot returns to a boil, and quickly take the tomatoes from the boiling water and put them directly into the ice water using tongs or a slotted spoon. Let the tomatoes rest in the ice water until they are cooled through, about 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Drain the water and peel away and discard the tomato skin. Once all the tomatoes have been peeled, transfer them to a large bowl and SQUEEZE THEM TO DEATH. Seriously! Use your hands and crush them like the puny weaklings they are. Set your dead tomatoes aside.
In small stock pot heat the oil over medium heat and add the onions and garlic, cooking until they are soft. Once they are soft add the tomato puree and crushed tomatoes, stirring frequently until boiling. Add the basil leaves (either whole or shredded) and reduce the heat, allowing the sauce to simmer for 40 minutes to one hour. Add salt and pepper and you’re done! Taste your sauce, and if it’s too acidic you can either add a teaspoon or two of brown sugar or a few splashes of milk/heavy cream to tone it down.
Instead of making the obvious move and doing an Italian dish to represent the tomato sauce, I figured it’d only be appropriate to stick with something somewhat Frenchy. And really, what’s more French than bread? Quite a bit, but for now we’ll pretend that nothing is more French than bread, and nothing is more delicious than tomato sauce bread. So read on, enjoy my tomato sauce bread recipe, and please feel free to share your favorite bread recipe in the comments section!
Tomato Sauce French Bread
Time: 3 hours total
- .25 oz (or 1 packet) dry active yeast
- 2 1/2 cups hot tomato sauce
- 3 tbsp butter, melted
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 tbsp oregano
- 5 to 7 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
In a large bowl add together the yeast, tomato sauce, butter, salt, sugar, cheese oregano and let sit for 2 minutes. Add 2.5 to 3 cups of the flour and mix until well-incorporated. Add flour 1/2 cup at a time, beating constantly, until a ball of dough forms that is neither sticky nor dry. If you add too much flour and the dough becomes dry, add a bit more hot tomato sauce, one tablespoon at a time, until it becomes pliable again.
Turn dough onto a floured countertop and knead for 5 to 10 minutes until smooth. Put dough into a bowl that has been greased with olive oil, making sure to lightly cover the ball of dough, cover, and place in a warm spot for one hour or until the dough has doubled in size. I put my bowl outside on my patio since I’m addicted to air conditioning and my apartment is in a constant tundra-like state.
Once the bread has risen, punch the dough down and split in half, transferring each half to a greased bread pan. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cover and let rest in a warm area for another 40 minutes to an hour until the dough has risen again. Immediately bake for 30 minutes, or until browned, making sure that it does not become dried out. Remove from the pans and allow the bread to cool slightly. Gobble down mercilessly with lots of butter or mozzarella cheese.