ULTIMATE TOMATO SAUCE: Saucy Desert Island Dreams

Tomato sauce is arguably the most important foundation of most cuisines. As such it is a fiercely debated topic of how to make the best tomato sauce. Fresh or canned tomatoes? Do you add sugar, vinegar, herbs or spices? Which ones? Well we have one unexpected special ingredient that will make your tomato sauce better than any other…

On rainy days during postprandial lie downs, I like pondering ‘dessert island’ scenarios (note: not desert – I prefer my islands to be sweet rather than dry!). What would I choose if I was stuck on a dessert/desert island and could eat only one piece of food for the rest of my life? My immediate thought is – of course – tiramisu!

But then I get into a whole debate with myself as to whether my food choice should have to take into account nutrition. Because if that were the case, I guess I would have to say something like: brown rice salad sprinkled with seaweed, kale, nuts and seeds. Maybe served with some beef or fish for ultimate nutrition.

And this is what this silly little game is all about really. Depending on a milieu of various constrictions you give yourself you can come up with a different answer to your desert island dietary needs and choices. If, for example, you accept that there may be an ample supply of coconuts available (which provide plenty of nutrition) you may decide your best option is to be provided with a little white rum and pineapple juice for a life time supply of piña colada!

Either way, this game is about dreaming up ultimate meals and ingredients. Which, brings me back to my one food of choice. You see many of the obvious ingredients are nothing in the flavour department on their own – potatoes, rice, pasta, bread, all of the carby staples in fact. Even the meaty proteins: seafood, chicken, beef, lamb and pork are not much on their own – although more so than their carby cousins. Which got me to thinking that I would really need a sauce to spruce up any food choice that I make.

Soy sauce? ketchup? Maybe even mayonnaise? There are a lot of great sauces to choose from. But none of them really makes a meal. Sure they make most meals better. But on a desert island we are looking for the ultimate here!

And then a profound thought struck me. A good tomato sauce is the foundation of everything! Well maybe not everything, a tiramisu does not have any tomatoes after all. And I must point out that I am not talking about the sugary/vinegary stuff you spray on your chips – although a good tomato sauce can be turned into this.

I am talking about the much debated (especially in Italian cuisine) tomato sauce that many people will just make out of canned tomatoes and a bit of salt. Others swear that adding a little garlic and herbs makes all of the difference. Think about it, pasta, stews, casseroles, curries, soups, sandwiches, pies etc all often contain a tomato sauce base. It is used in Italian, Spanish, French, Indian, Moroccan, African, Asian, American and British food. In fact, a good tomato sauce is used in almost every cuisine around the world!

So then I move the desert island goal posts once again and decide that I would absolutely have to have my ultimate tomato sauce in the hope that I could catch fish and grow my own wheat and rice etc – this is a very forgiving desert island after-all. This tomato sauce is so packed full of flavour and richness that I have used it in a butter chicken and not added any cream! And this is not because it contains lots of butter or anything. No it has one secret ingredient – a vegetable – that lifts this sauce to a completely different and unexpected level.

Once you try this special recipe you too will be carrying a jar around of it in your pocket in case you shipwreck on a desert island someday and are in need of some extra flavour.

Ingredients for the ultimate tomato sauce (makes lots!):

  • 1kg tomatoes
  • 500g red capsicums
  • 2 bulb garlic
  • 2 red onions (can use brown too)
  • olive oil (not extra virgin)
  • salt and pepper
  • any herbs and spices that you want to add if you want to slant it towards a particular cuisine.


Method for the ultimate tomato sauce:

Turn the oven on high heat (250°C) bake. Slice the very bottom off the garlic bulbs and sit them flat on a baking tray. Cut the onions in half and put all of the ingredients on a baking tray.

Sprinkle lavishly with olive oil, salt and pepper. You can add any spices that you want too – but only ones that will go well with heat. You can add fresh herbs (basil is great for Italian!) etc after the roasting process.

Roast the veges (and fruit) in the oven for about 40 minutes until the capsicum has started to blacken on the skin (turn them half way through) and the tomatoes have shrivelled and shrunk.

Once they have roasted and caremlised and reduced their flavour squeeze the garlic out of its skin – it will come out the bottom because of the cut you made earlier – and cut the stalk off the capsicum in a circle. This should remove most of the seeds with it. Clean of any seeds from the inside of the capsicum, but don’t stress about it too much. You may have to do this step once the veges have cooled down.

Put everything in a blender and whizz until it is perfectly smooth. Taste and add any extra seasoning, extra virgin olive oil or butter that you may want to add. The sauce should be strong and sweet in flavour. Of course vegetables vary in the amount of sweetness they have so you may want to add a little sugar. But most of the time you wont need to.

And that is the whole point of this recipe – the roasting does the reduction that many tomato sauce recipes call for in a pot. The difference is that the ingredients also have a chance to caramelise which makes them more flavoursome and sweeter. The capsicum somehow gives the sauce a similar quality that adding cream will. The sauce will even be a similar colour to a tomato sauce that has a little cream added to it.

This is the ideal recipe for vegans to make a rich creamy tomato sauce!

The ultimate tomato sauce pre-roasting

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