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In search of pizza sauce... wait, don't roll your eyes and ignore this! Honest to goodness question inside!

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I have no problems with searching and finding homemade pizza sauce recipes. What I have a problem with, however, is that most, if not all, sauces are on the *sweet* side. I dont like sweet pizza sauce. I dont want spicy sauce either (most recipes call for red pepper flakes)-- that's not the taste I'm after. I'm at a loss for words to describe the type of sauce I want, so I'll just point out common restaurants that carry the type of sauce I like.

Round Table Pizza
Straw Hat Pizza
Blondie's Pizza
California Pizza Kitchen (at times)
Pizza Hut (not really "THE" sauce I like, but it's in the same family)

Yeah, most of those are California or western states-oriented but I'm not familiar enough with East/Midwest pizza sauces :)

Here's hoping someone can point me in the right direction for the perfect pizza sauce!

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  1. If you're talking about pizza chains, or larger than a hole in the wall establishments, they usually buy their sauce in a can already made. Either that or 7-11 or similar ground tomatoes and add their flavorings. Don't know about West Coast, but here they sell small cans of pizza sauce in any grocery store, Don Pepe or Redpack are two common ones. Get some and taste out of the can, then you can jazz it up if you wish. It's hard to duplicate with canned whole tomatoes.

    5 Replies
    1. re: coll

      Agree on Don Pepe, simple and chunky. Also, out of season, I'll get a can of Muir Glen diced tomatoes, drain them, and then drizzle on good olive oil. Add whatever goes with what you're making: basil, oregano, parm, or not.

      1. re: junescook

        If you make it from scratch, you have to drain well. I do it for an hour or so at least. A can each of puree and crushed, then after draining simmer with herbs and seasonings of your choice for 30 minutes til it's even thicker.

        1. re: coll

          The pizza I try to recreate is the apizza I grew up eating in Highwood, an Italian neighborhood on the border between New Haven and Hamden around Dixwell Ave. The Cricca family ran Johhny's Apizza/Venice Restaurant up at the corner of our street. Every summer all of the women in the neighborhood would gather in the garage in the back of the restaurants to peel the tomatoes that would be canned for the pies. Like many of the Italian folks in the area, people in our neighborhood came from the south of Italy in the region of the Amalfi coast. I only recall that the pies had crushed tomatoes on them, and would burn the roof of your mouth unless you waited quite a while to eat them. That's why I have been going in that direction trying to get that back, no puree!

          I just looked up in Arthur Schwartz's book, The Southern Italian Table. He, of course, spends several weeks every year conducting classes and tours from his school there, and his chapter on pizza highlights the southern, Neapolitan type. Of the many toppings he lists the first are: Pizza marinara -- just crushed tomatoes, chopped or slivered garlic and dried oregano. "Outside Naples, marinara often has anchovies too. In Naples that's called Napolitana."

          Pizza Margherita: Scatter crushed tomato sparingly over the dough, then add a few dots of cow's milk mozzarellaand a couple of torn leaves of fresh basil.

          Again, I think pureed, flavored sauce is something that is more recent, not the tomato pies that we grew up with in neighborhood nonni's kitchens or in the coal burning ovens that seemed to be ubiquitous when I was a kid in New Haven.

          1. re: junescook

            Hi Junescook.,
            Please refresh my memory; Was Johnnie's Apizza around Arch St. near the Dairy Queen?

            1. re: mucho gordo

              Between Cherry Ann and Elizabeth next to St. John the Baptist School.

    2. I like Coll's answer. Another thing you could do is fry a couple of garlic cloves, smashed - not chopped, then add a can of "kitchen ready" tomatoes, salt & pepper and a little bit of dried oregano - crumbled to release the flavor. Simmer gently on low-ish flame for about 15 minutes. Srir gently a few times. Remove the garlic when sauce is done. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

      I suggested "kitchen ready" because that is rather mild and pureed, but definitely tomato-y, product so you can doctor it up anyway you like. The short cooking period is because the sauce will cook during the pizza baking process.

      1. Here's a stupid question.
        What's the difference between pizza and pasta sauce?

        14 Replies
        1. re: monku

          it's the differnce between izz and ast...
          ;)

          1. re: byrd

            So far your explanation is the only explainable difference.

          2. re: monku

            Pizza sauce is very thick, close to a paste, and usually flavored with just salt and oregano, maybe a little pepper. At least at your standard pizzeria restaurant.

            1. re: coll

              I watch them make pizza's at places and they ladle it on and spread it out thin, it doesn't look very thick.

              1. re: monku

                It's thicker than I would put on pasta though. Hard to describe exactly, it's spreadable but still much thicker than a pot of sauce.

            2. re: monku

              Good question. I puree Marcella Hazan's pasta sauce for pizza.

              1. re: chowser

                I've used pasta sauce to make pizza at home. Don't notice a difference.

                1. re: monku

                  There's only a difference if you want your pizzas and pastas to taste different.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    What difference in taste are you talking about?
                    I would assume the spices for both could be the same.

                    1. re: monku

                      No not necessarily.

                      Think about it for a moment. Red sauce pasta is usually (stress, usually) eaten as a combo of a handful of items -- pasta, sauce, cheese and maybe some type of meat.

                      Pizza on the other hand can be (and many times is) assembled with a garbage can list of toppings -- from meats, to veggies, to cheeses.

                      Given that a pizza has so many competing flavor profiles, I would imagine that your typical American-style pizza sauce would be more strongly flavored with things like oregano, basil, garlic, onion powder, etc. than a typical red sauce pasta sauce.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Your pizza sauce sounds like the ingredients in my pasta sauce, except I wouldn't use onion powder, but real onions.

                        1. re: monku

                          I rarely see onions or garlic in pizza sauce, if anything then just the granulated or powder. But of course it can be made as you like. I think we're still searching for a commercial version of pizza sauce though, not a home made type.

                  2. re: monku

                    Hey nothing wrong with that.

                    I guess because OP mentioned pizza places I was talking more foodservice prep, or old style NY pizzeria pizza. If I get a pizza right out of the oven, I don't want nuclear temp sauce dripping on me as I take my first bite, or allowing the cheese to float too much, both have to adhere to some extent or it's a sloppy mess.

                2. re: monku

                  <What's the difference between pizza and pasta sauce?>

                  Pizza sauce is generally thicker than pasta sauce. It's easy to use the same recipe, just cook your favorite pasta sauce down more to remove more of the moisture. Voila! Pizza Sauce!

                3. I didn't see anyone else mention it, but a finely grated hard cheese (parmesan or romano) in the sauce makes it more savory and cuts the sweetness of the tomatoes a bit. Garlic powder in moderation is also good (I also like a bit of oregano and red pepper).

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: LisaPA

                    savory! that was the word i was looking for. thanks for all the suggestions, folks-- I'll try doctoring up a bit of premade sauce and seeing how that works out.

                    i know about crushed tomatoes/pureeing them, but that just brings the sweet flavor to the table and that's not what i particularly like. I once added some tomato paste to crushed tomatoes and let that reduce in a skillet, but there was this slightly bitter taste. Not too noticeable, as the sauce was still good, but still there. Tried remedying that with some sugar but still no luck. Hmm.

                    1. re: carriesn

                      Any time you cook tomatoes, you are going to intensify their sweetness and tame their acidity. The acidity balances out the sweetness. Tomato paste is reduced tomatoes, and very sweet. If you don't like sweetness, the least sweet tomato product that you can have, I would submit, is crushed canned tomatoes.

                  2. If you use uncooked canned tomatoes, sprinkled with whatever spices/herbs you like, you'll probably find that you enjoy it much more than a cooked sauce.

                    1. RT is alright
                      SH, no thanks
                      CPK, can't stand
                      PH, uh......

                      in blender or cuisinart put:
                      a reg sized can of crushed tomatoes
                      a small can of tomato sauce
                      a small can of tomato past
                      onion and garlic powder
                      salt and pepper
                      1/2 tsp sugar
                      1/2 tsp dried oregano
                      2 T olive oil

                      blend and put in a saucepan and simmer away and let it scale down a bit.
                      use to spread on your favorite dough.

                      hope that helps

                      1. Simple sauce and quick ... 1 can of chopped tomatoes, 1 can of tomato sauce and 1 can (small) of tomato paste.... simmer and add what you like - garlic, oregano and basil is what I use.

                        Cook down to desired viscosity... it only takes about 5 to 10 minutes.

                        If it's too sweet for your liking, cut back on the tomato paste.

                        1. Hmm- maybe my taste buds are different, but I wouldn't describe tomato paste as sweet. Yes, it's sweet but in a savory way. On my pizza jaunts in NYC, I didn't like Lombardi's and Grimaldi's pizzas as much as I thought I would just because of their overly sweet sauce. I ended up liking Ray's the best, lol. Fully intend to resume my pizza jaunt there someday! Meanwhile- stuck in NM, a pizza wasteland except for Giovanni's in Albuquerque :)

                          Thanks for all your suggestions!