Pizza Sauce

I hope everyone had/is having a wonderful 4th! This is the second year in a row that I’ve spent late June/early July house-sitting for my parents in upstate NY. And while spending the 4th of July alone might seem boring to some, I rather enjoy it. I still devoted my day to making a ton of food and indulging in an afternoon beverage or two, and the only thing that made me feel like I was kind of missing out on this year’s festivities was when J sent me a picture of a plate full of bbq and sides. And although I now have a major craving for mac and cheese, it’s going to be ok — pizza is a good substitute!

See, the thing about spending an entire day making food is that people need to actually eat it. And since I’m the only one here (and the only thing my parents’ cats seem interested in eating are vomit-inducing amounts of cat treats or the animals they proudly slaughter), most of it needs to be preserved for my parents to enjoy later. Which is why pizza is the perfect choice, since I can freeze a ready-to-bake portion and then bake up a tiny little pizza for myself. And while I can be pretty lazy when it comes to pizza sauce (using tomato purée straight from the jar or opting for alternatives like pesto or just plain white pizza), making it really isn’t that difficult. And it makes your pizza taste even better.

My first attempt at homemade pizza sauce actually occurred at my parents’ house late last year. I decided to give a slightly modified version of Alton Brown’s pantry friendly pizza sauce a try, and it pretty much lived up to its name (considering I was in my parents’ house and still managed to find all of the ingredients I needed, except for the capers). Everything was cooking up on the stove and smelling absolutely amazing. I was already turning into a homemade pizza sauce convert. Then, I decided to add some crushed red pepper to the sauce. I grabbed an unassuming bottle of McCormick crushed red pepper from the pantry, and gave a few good shakes into the sauce pan. A few minutes later, I gave the sauce a taste. At first: delicious. Then: FIRE. As a wave of spice rocketed through my mouth/throat/face/brain, I realized that the McCormick bottle of unusually bright-colored crushed red pepper actually contained the recently dried and ground chile peppers from my mother’s garden. I had to add many things to the sauce to counteract my mistake, and the end result was definitely not nearly as good as it should have been. I would not make that mistake again.

This sauce is delicious, and easily thrown together while you’re waiting for your pizza dough to rise. If you don’t mind chunks in your pizza sauce, you can skip the blending part entirely (just be sure to mince your ingredients to a tolerable size). And if you don’t happen to have cooking sherry or white wine, you can substitute whatever similar ingredients you happen to have on hand (i.e., red wine, beer, white wine vinegar, any other variety of vinegars to give it a little tang). Taste as you go, and it will turn out fine.

Pizza Sauce

(adapted* from Alton Brown)

yield: around 1 cup of sauce (or enough for 2 pizzas)

*Note: I’ve changed the methods a bit in this recipe since I find it easier to cook everything together in one pan on the stovetop. And since I’m making this again at my parents’ house, I am once again lacking capers. The sauce still tasted great without them, but I could see how they would add an extra element to the overall flavor. If you don’t have capers, you could try substituting a few diced green olives.

  • 1 16 oz. jar of tomato purée or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 small stalk of celery, diced
  • 1 very small onion, diced (I used the white part of scallions)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/8 cup of sugar
  • 1/8 cup of cooking sherry or red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup of white wine
  • 3 tbsp of capers
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic, and saute for around 5 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the sauce is thick enough that it starts to “spit” a little. (I don’t know if that’s actually an adjective people use to describe this — I guess it’s kind of gross.) In other words: when the sauce is thick enough that the bubbles produce little sauce projectiles that you’re kind of scared to put your arm near, remove it from the heat.

Let sauce cool for 15 minutes or so, then purée in a blender or food processor. Use immediately, or store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

And to wrap things up, I’d like to give a nod to the awesomeness of the discovery of the Higgs boson particle (science geeky-ness showing through my otherwise-stoic blog persona — but seriously, super cool). And I’d also like to share a couple photos from my current locale. Three cheers for independence, science, and pizza!

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