My Top 10 uses for “Red Sauce”

I talked about the versatile “red sauce” in my previous post and I wanted to share with you the many ways in which I have used this sauce. I like to find new uses for products that I make in bulk so please share any other ideas you might have for me.

1. Pasta Sauce pasta sauce

Probably the most obvious use of the red sauce is to modify it to make a pasta sauce. The basic additions, for me, would be more garlic, red pepper flakes, herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, parsley), and olive oil. These modifications give me a multipurpose pasta sauce to which I can add meat, vegetables, and/or cream depending on the dish I want to make.

Lasagna is pretty much the only pasta dish I make on a semi-regular basis and this is my go-to homemade sauce.

2. Pizza Sauce pizza

It is very similar to the pasta sauce. In fact, you could substitute one for the other. I like to thicken the sauce by cooking it down. The thicker sauce is less likely to make the crust soggy. Other than the pasta sauce additions, I also add a little bit of parmesan cheese.

 

3. Eggplant Parmesan 4278933964_471403b8ab_o

Another sauce that I think need not be very different from a pasta sauce. I do like chunks of tomato in my eggplant parmesan so I like to add some fresh/ canned diced tomatoes in addition to the herbs and parmesan cheese. I do not bother with any additional oil because there is plenty in the dish.

 

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/27129991@N03/4278933964/

4. Ratatouille Ratatouille02

I eat a lot of ratatouille in the summer because eggplant, zucchini, and bell peppers are all in season. My lazy version involves adding the sauce to the sautéed vegetables + onions and cooking for at least 15 minutes. The only herb I add is basil. It is always better the next day thought.

By Tomáš Zeleninský – Ratatouille, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2967226

5. Soup

Tomato_soup,_Turkish_styleA Hungarian goulash- style soup is one of my favorite uses of this red sauce. It is definitely nothing like the time-consuming-but-worth-it traditional version but it is satisfying.

It can also makes a great tomato soup to satisfy a last minute craving. In fact my simplest tomato soup combines this sauce with some butter and onions and broth/water.

By E4024 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43108039

6. Chili 1024px-Bowl_of_chili

Chili is one of my favorite one pot meals. I eat it all year round. Using the red sauce as the tomato component of the chili allows the flavors to come together quicker. I would still add some fresh or canned tomatoes for the chunks.

By Carstor (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

7. Stew

Any meat-based stew, that calls for tomatoes, could use some of this sauce. It also makes a good addition to any bean based dishes. As with all stews, I like to add some tomato paste as well.

8. Cajun Cuisine gumbo1

This red sauce works well in many Cajun tomato based dishes. Combined wit the Cajun seasonings (oregano, paprika, cayenne, and black pepper). My favorite use of it is in seafood gumbo where the combined with onions, celery, and bell pepper give a flavorful base for the seafood.

9. Sauce for baked/ grilled chicken 

It can be used as a sauce for a quick chicken meal. The red sauce can be combined with some sautéed onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms. This mixture served over some pan fried or grilled chicken makes a quick meal.

10. Indian curry 

1024px-Chicken_makhani

By stu_spivack (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

I left this one for the end because this is the cuisine I am most well-versed in and therefore find it very difficult to write tips for. Sometimes you see recipes for Indian restaurant style dishes (eg. chicken tikka masala, paneer mattar, etc.) that ask you to puree onions and tomatoes before cooking. This sauce takes care of part of the process. The spices are added to the onion tomato mixture along with your main ingredient to make a thick, smooth sauce for your curry.

Do you have any other suggestions for what to do with the red sauce? Do let me know.

 

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The Multi-Purpose “Red Sauce”

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

By Javier Lastras from España/Spain – Tomate Natural Triturado, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9822625

It’s summer which means an abundance of tomatoes. In the past, I have been overwhelmed by tomatoes from my garden or my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) subscriptions. Living where I do now, I do not have access to such bounty but summer reminds me of the times I have had to figure out to use the tomato overload Today I wanted to share one of my favorite ways to process and store the fruit, red sauce aka tomato sauce.

What makes tomatoes so special?

Tomatoes cook well. Whether you start off with unripe tomatoes or with mushy ones, once you cook it, they fall apart to create this quick sauce. Tomato sauces also thicken really well. If you give a tomato based sauce, some time and heat, it will thicken without the help of cornstarch or other thickeners. Tomatoes are an excellent source of, umami, the savory taste. This is why adding some concentrated tomato, in the form of tomato paste, will improve any stew. Tomatoes are found in so many different styles of cooking. Although it originated in the Americas, this wonderful fruit, now, has a place in cuisines all around the world.

I prefer to use the term red sauce because the term tomato sauce can mean different things in different places. In America, it usually refers to any variation of pasta sauce but growing up, it meant ketchup. It is also that product you find in the canned tomato section at the grocery store. Another reason I call it red sauce is because I use it as a base for more than just pasta. Pasta is just one of the many ways I like to use the concoction. I use it in chili, Indian curries, as well as soups.

Goal:

  • Make use of the abundant summer tomatoes and find a way to make them last into the colder months. This means it has to store well.
  • Spend less money on store-bought canned goods.
  • The process should not be too time consuming. In the case of tomatoes that would be no peeling or seeding. Using thin-skinned tomatoes helps greatly.
  • In order to make it truly multi-purpose, it has to have versatile flavors that can be adapted for use in any cuisine.

After much experimentation in terms of flavor, processing time, and storage, this is a brief description of what I usually do to create a tomato base I like.

Process:

This sauce is all about the process. Add the ingredients in the right order and at the right time and it should be all good. Melt some butter and add a little bit of grated onion and salt. Cook stirring occasionally until the onions are a very lightly brown. Add pressed/ grated garlic and stir until you have the wonderful fragrance. Add tomatoes (diced) and some sugar and bring it to a simmer and then cook uncovered until the sauce is a little thicker. It should take around 30 minutes of cooking time.

Notes:

I use butter because I find it to be the most versatile of the fat options. One could use olive oil if you only intended to use it in certain dishes. I personally do not appreciate the flavor of olive oil in my Indian food. I also use grated onions because something about grating it gives it the sauce the perfect distribution of flavor. I also do not link chunks of onions in all of the dishes I make using this sauce.

This is the simplest version of the sauce and the one I freeze. It can also be canned. I have done that in the past but I am not confident I have the directions to safely can something as tricky as tomatoes.

Now that we have a basic sauce, we will be able to modify it as needed for different foods. In Friday’s post, I will share my Top 10 uses for this sauce and how I adapt the sauce for each of these dishes. I find that giving tomatoes plenty of time to cook is key to many recipes and having a big part of that done really saves on cooking time.