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Tomato sauce--secret ingredient?

I was wondering if anyone used a special, "different" ingredient in their tomato sauce. I use the regular items--onions, garlic, oregano, maybe some other green leaf type herbs, sometimes red wine, sometimes red chile flakes. Just getting a little bored, and thought maybe there's some secret little ingredient that could be added to make the tomato sauce just heaven.

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  1. anchovy paste melted into the olive oil before sauteeing the onions. ...or anychovy fillets, if you prefer.

    i also like to do a spicy tomato sauce (red chili flakes) with capers and a drained can of very nice tuna (the kind packed in olive oil) flaked in at the end, finish with chopped parsely.

    thinly sliced fennel is a nice addition to a rustic tomato sauce.

    perhaps try a ragu of duck? or try a meat sauce with ground bison? these are faves in my house.

    1 Reply
    1. re: litchick

      yum, i love anchovies... this sounds great

    2. I'm a traditionalist when it comes to sauce, so I stick close to my mom's but have started to alter it just a bit. I use whole tomatoes and crush them by hand. I go easier on the onions and heavier on the garlic to make it taste more like a fresh tomato sauce rather than a blanket of marinara. I usually sprinkle a few pinches of sugar to balance the tomato acid and a splash of vinegar for some background tang. Oregano, basil, parsley (fresh herbs if the season allows). You can try adding chopped carrots and celery to the original saute of onions and garlic. They add their sweetness, but it's not my favorite twist. Also try making your sauce with crumbled sweet Italian sausage for a change of pace. Have fun!

      1. Ah, I was thinking anchovies while typing the initial post. Will definitely give that a try.

        Thanks for the ideas so far. Definitely some good ideas and pointers.

        1. Dash of cinammon

          Dash of sugar

          Beef broth

          Some itaian grandmas I know add flour.

          2 Replies
          1. re: jenniebnyc

            my old italian grandma always saved the cheese rinds to toss in chicken or beef soups. i'll have to try it in sauce.

            1. re: boppiecat

              cheese rinds are great (make for rich fantastic lentil soup too)
              at times, i also add 1/2 a cube of porcini bullion

          2. A parmesan rind. You know that waxy end on the parmesan block that you usually throw away? Keep the next one in the freezer then throw it whole into the sauce while it cooks next time. Take it out before serving. Adds a rich flavor without too much cheesiness.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Clare K

              I tried that once and I do not know if that added anything to the sauce, or as my wife calls it 'gravy.' It was the rind of Parmigiano Reggiano sent from Italy by a friend who lives in Genova.

              1. re: ChiliDude

                Romano will add more taste than expensive parmesan. But it won't hit you over the head either way. I just like snacking on it after it's melted myself.

                1. re: coll

                  Gnawing on that sauce-softened rind is the cook's bonus treat.