Monday, August 31, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Vanilla Tomato Sauce

Vanilla extract.


I wanted a good, basic tomato sauce that I could easily use on pizza or as just tomato sauce. The...issue?...with pizza sauce is that it needs to be a tad sweeter than regular tomato sauce. "Need" might be a strong word here as it comes down to personal preference, but in my opine a pizza sauce should be a smidge sweeter than that you put on (or in between) your pasta.

I've gotten away from using refined sugar in my tomato sauce, and not b/c I'm an anti-refined sugar type (I'm anything but). When I read a Batali recipe that uses carrots to sweeten the sauce I said, "Yup, that fat bastard nailed it on the head!" I tried it and VA-VOOM! and from then on I've been using carrots as my sweetener in my sauce.

But the sauce still lacks something. It's not sweetness - it has the right tinge. It's also not any animal-based fat; a good tomato sauce should stand on its own without the fond and drippings from the Holy Trinity: sausage, pork and the blessed meatball.

So while sauteing the onions for this and thinking about a fantastic slice of peach pie and vanilla ice cre.........VANILLA!

I'm not kidding. It's not a lot of vanilla - just 1 TBS per 50oz of tomatoes - but man does it mellow out that tangy edge of tomato sauce and brings out that tomato flavor we all crave.

[Except for those weird-o's who don't like tomato sauce.]

1 box Pomi crushed tomatoes (26 ounces)
1 box Pomi strained tomatoes (26 ounces)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 TBS kosher salt
6 garlic cloves, shaved into thin slices
1 TBS vanilla extract
5 large carrots, peeled and cut in half, lengthwise
12 - 15 basil leaves, whole
2 TSP minced parsley

In a 3 quart pot bring the olive oil up to medium-low heat. Add the onion and salt and let gently simmer for about 15 - 20 minutes, until the onion is very, very soft. Add the carrots and garlic, mix, and simmer for another 3 - 4 minutes until the garlic softens. Add the vanilla extract and simmer an additional minute or two.

Add both boxes of tomatoes (carefully - they'll likely splash), stir to mix and then add in the basil and parsley. Turn heat up to medium to get to a simmer, then reduce to medium-low or low just so the sauce bubbles. Let sit for 1 - 2 hours.

Discard the carrots - or leave or eat them - and then you're done.


  1. Okay, so here's the story. For some reason I've been watching Chef Academy and although I find the instructor intolerable and basically racist, I couldn't help but try his tomato sauce recipe, mainly due to his use of a vanilla bean. I labored for about two and a half hours creating a tomato paste reduction and was growing ever skeptical as the entire house reaked of vanilla...sure enough, my tomato sauce ended up tasting like ice cream, and I'm still pissed. Since then I've been scouring the interwebs looking for information on using vanilla in tomato sauce, and found your great recipe blog. I will try this recipe, but so help me god it better not taste like an ice cream sandwich. Anyway...thank you in advance.

  2. Hi Jeremy -

    Thanks for the comment. Note that I'm not using a lot of vanilla - just one TBS in 52oz of liquid. It does work though - you don't taste 'vanilla' but rather it just smoothes out the tartness of the sauce. It'd probably be very effective in sauces that use canned tomatoes (I prefer the Pomi boxed ones) since I find I can taste the metal from the can.

    Crazy, I know.

    Do let me know what you think!