Tomato sauce

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Tomatoes being sold at Borough Market, London

A tomato sauce is any of a very large number of sauces made primarily out of 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.

Commercial tomato ketchup

Some Italian Americans on the East Coast refer to tomato sauce as "gravy", "tomato gravy", "Sunday gravy" or "Sunday sauce", especially sauces with a large quantity of meat simmered in them, similar to the Italian Neapolitan ragù. "Gravy" is the literal English translation from the Italian sugo which means sauce.

Tomatoes have a rich flavour, low liquid content, very soft flesh which breaks down easily, and the right composition to thicken up 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 flavour, and seasoned with salt.

Water (or another, more flavourful 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 sautéed at the beginning before the tomato is added. Other seasonings typically include basil, oregano, parsley, and possibly some red chilli pepper or black pepper. Ground or chopped meat is also common.

See also

Tomato recipes & tomato sauce recipes

Try these simple tomato sauce recipes, they are ideal for pizza toppings or as a sauce for pasta, meatballs etc. Some of them are also a great way to use up a glut of home-grown tomatoes.


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