How do you get that perfectly balanced – not too acidic, not too sweet, not too watery – tomato sauce? After spending considerable time and effort making the perfect pizza dough, you definitely do not want to ruin it with a mediocre sauce. Here you will learn the secrets of how Italians make their traditional sauce- and some unique variations you might have never thought of.
To understand how serious this pizza business is, keep in mind that the art of Neapolitan pizza making has become part of the Unesco World Heritage in 2017! The same foundation that seeks to preserve some pretty important things- like the Vatican and the Taj Mahal- is now also preserving the standards and traditions surrounding Neapolitan Pizza making. For this reason, some rules have been established on the quality and the way of making it, and you are about to discover some of the secrets to making the perfect Pomodoro sauce.
The Best Tomatoes for Pizza Sauce
For the classic Margherita and Marinara pizzas, the standard in Naples is San Marzano canned tomatoes. They are oblong, bright, red tomatoes that grow in a specific area not too far from Salerno (about one hour south of Naples). They are considered a protected and regulated product (DOP), as they must be grown in a specific way meeting high standards. They are juicy, fragrant, and just perfect for that scrumptious pizza sauce. Learn more about the different Italian tomato variations from our friends at Discrawl.
However, for non-classic Margherita and Marinara pizzas, some specialty tomatoes may be used. One kind that is widely used in Naples is the Pomodorino del Piennolo, which comes in red and yellow varieties. They only grow on the Vesuvius Volcano slopes, a land that is fertile and full of minerals. The yellow tomatoes are the most expensive ones – people call them “ The Vesuvius’ gold” – and when using them you would get a bright yellow pizza sauce base! These tomatoes are absolutely delicious, small like cherry tomatoes but packed with flavor- sweeter than regular tomatoes. They may either be turned into a fine sauce (passata) or just sliced into slivers and baked together with the pizza, just long enough to get a little softer and release that aromatic juice that perfectly marries the cheese.
In other parts of Italy, some other varieties of tomatoes are used, but they all share similar characteristics- they are oblong, not too watery, flavorful, and easy to turn into a dense sauce after being peeled and crushed.
SUMMARY – San Marzano are the tomatoes by excellence for classic red sauce pizza. Some other varieties include the Pomodorino del Piennolo- yellow or red. If San Marzano is impossible to find where you live, oblong peeled tomatoes are the best next choice.
Perfect Tomato Sauce Recipe
So now that you got your hands on some proper San Marzano tomatoes, how do you turn them into a great sauce?
If you are starting with fresh tomatoes, you want to quickly boil them first- just 2 minutes, do not overdo it! The tomatoes should remain firm, but as you let them cool you will see the skin starting to lose its shape so they become super easy to peel. You now got homemade peeled tomatoes! Canned peeled San Marzano tomatoes may also be used, in which case you would skip this step.
Once the tomatoes are peeled, you can crush them by hand until you get very fine chunks. This is doable if you are making just a few pizzas at home; however, restaurants use a “passino”- a strainer with manually moving blades so that more tomatoes can be crushed all at the same time.
This will create a sauce that is smooth but contains little bits of tomatoes. Passata is not used in most restaurants.
Do you want to know a great trick? Slice the tomatoes in half after peeling them and remove the seeds. You will have an even better flavor devoid of any bitterness. Seeds that get crushed may release a little bit of off-taste- this happens mainly when crushing with a tool; if you are just using your hands, it is unlikely to happen.
Once you have your sauce, just add a pinch of baking soda (to cut any acidity) and salt. Sugar will not be enough to cut the acidity, using baking soda will work much better. That is it! The sauce will NOT be cooked, but simply baked in your KettlePizza Oven. Once the pizza comes out, you will add some fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil – leaving these items uncooked will make the pizza so fresh tasting and fragrant!
For a Marinara sauce, on the other hand, you would add oregano, a generous dose of extra virgin olive oil, one minced garlic clove, and a pinch of black pepper to the sauce BEFORE putting it on the pizza and baking it. Let it sit for 30 minutes to marinate and you will see how this pizza does not need any cheese at all, as the flavors are simple yet strong. To die for.
The Perfect Neapolitan Pizza Sauce
Neapolitan Pizza Sauce for 5 Pizzas.
4.2 from 15 votes
PREP TIME5 mins
TOTAL TIME5 mins
- 500 g San Marzano tomatoes
- 5 g Sea Salt
- 0.25 tsp Baking Soda
- 6-7 leaves of Basil
- 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Drain the liquid the canned tomatoes come in
- Crush the tomatoes by hand and add them to a bowl
- Add the rest of the ingredients and mix everything by hand until you get a smooth consistency
Calories: 333kcalCarbohydrates: 20gProtein: 4gFat: 29gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 21gSodium: 2927mgPotassium: 941mgFiber: 5gSugar: 12gVitamin A: 585IUVitamin C: 47mgCalcium: 156mgIron: 5mg
Many countries just use the tomato sauce as a base, feeling that all the toppings will just cover it up anyway, and the flavor is more about the cheeses or meats. But if a tomato sauce is of great quality and skillfully done, it can be amazing standing alone- it will not even need any extra toppings.
Our Top Choices for San Marzano Canned Tomatoes
The Cento production plant is located in the San Marzano region in Campania, Italy, approximately 22 miles southeast of the town of Naples. The plant literally sits in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, renowned for its especially fertile soil and temperate climate. The close proximity of the plant to the local farmer’s San Marzano plantings allows for the handpicked crop to be delivered within hours after selection.
Rega has a vining plant that continuously produces elongated, pointed plum tomatoes. It is a deeply flavored heirloom variety that is more sweet, less acid, has fewer seeds and more dense flesh than others. It is the perfect variety for sauce and paste. Whole and peeled.
For 103 years Sclafani has been importing high quality oils, vinegars, tomaotes, sauces, and much more from Italy. Sclafani constantly strives to bring the best European food to your dinner table. Each year the entire company travels to Europe to inspect the farms where our excellent products are grown. We expect a lot out of our farmers because you expect a lot out of us.