Monday, April 29, 2013

Making Sweet Tomato Sauce

Don't we all love a good tomato sauce? I don't think I know anyone who doesn't. There must be people out there that just don't fancy the taste of tomatoes, but they are rare. Even my picky kids and husband all like this red substance on their pizzas and pastas. And that says a lot...

Of course the words tomato sauce cover a whole range of varieties in reddish sauces. And not all of them are strictly made of tomatoes I'm afraid. 

When I got interested in healthier food choices one of the things I learned was to read labels on food packages. It was pretty shocking to see that not all 'natural' foods came directly from nature. The same with sauces. You can buy a tomato based pasta sauce in a jar, in a liquid form, but also as a powder in a small carton box. The one in the box is most likely the most processed of the two. Does that mean that the ones in the jars are better? That really depends on the ingredients.

When you buy sauce in a jar, read the label. Make sure there's not too much sugar or sweetener in it. One golden rule for reading labels is: when you're having a hard time pronouncing and understanding the ingredients listed, your body is probably going to have a hard time digesting it ;-)  

A lot of times the healthier options unfortunately come with an unhealthy price (at least unhealthy for our wallets). But it does pay off to keep looking for alternatives. In my search for healthier options I found out that Aldi (supermarket) sells a very good tomato sauce for only 1 Euro per jar. So whenever I don't have time to make my own sauce, that's a good alternative to go for.

If I have time and the tomatoes aren't too expensive I like to create my own sauces for pasta and pizza. And since I had some tomatoes lying around that needed some attention before going to a waste I made a basic tomato sauce for today's recipe. Some ideas for using this sauce: on pasta, on pizza, in a chili or as a base for soup. You choose!

When I was done I divided the sauce over two 500 ml jars. I stored one in my fridge for later use and gave one to my mum. She's my biggest fan and it's about time that it pays off for her!

Sweet Tomato Sauce
cooked vegan, 1 liter/1quart

  • 1100 grams of tomatoes (I used a mix of cherry tomatoes and vine ripened tomatoes)
  • 2 shallots (80 grams)
  • 6 small pitted dates (50 grams)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 cup/250 ml of water

Cut the tomatoes into quarters. The cherry tomatoes I used were so small that I didn't bother to cut them at all and used them whole. The recipe is based on the amount of tomatoes that I had on hand, which was 1100 grams. If you go out to buy tomatoes it's probably easier to get a kilo/1000 grams. In that case, keep the recipe the same, but add a little less water to the pot to prevent the sauce from becoming too thin.

Cut up the shallots, the cloves of garlic and the dates into small pieces. The dates will give some sweetness to the sauce and they are a much healthier substitute for sugar.

Take a cooking pot (medium size) and heat the olive oil in it. Once the oil is hot throw in the pieces of shallot, garlic and date. Stir fry this in the oil for about 5 minutes, then add the tomatoes.

Once the tomatoes have been added to the pot keep stirring for a few minutes. Then put in the cup of water and bring it to a boil. Once it's boiling, lower the heat and let the sauce simmer for about 30 minutes. 

After simmering for half an hour turn off the gas and let the sauce cool off. When the sauce has cooled down you can either blend it with a stick blender or put the sauce in a regular blender (that's what I did) and blend it until it's got a smooth consistency.

This recipe yielded about 1 liter/1 quart of tomato sauce. I divided it over two 500 ml jars. It will keep fresh in the fridge for about 3 days I guess. It's possible to freeze it though when you need it at a much later date.