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Special pizza sauce with fennel? Help me crack secret recipe from a Connecticut-man

I´m trying to copy a pizzasauce from Norway. It has has quite an unusual flavour compared to normal basil-garlic-oregano-chili combinations.

The guy who made it, moved here in the 1960s and had worked in Frank Pepe´s pizza restaurant in Connecticut in USA.

He started what is now Norways biggest pizza chain, and the sauce is still quite special, compared to all other pizzas I´ve tried. So I was hoping someone in here is familiar with the way to use these ingredients, and perhaps have heard of similiar sauces before. I need help cracking this recipe!

The sauce has a distinctive licorice-like flavour. And I´m unsure if it is fennel or anis. Or both. I´ve tried just putting fennel seeds in the sauce, but that does nothing. Same with anis. And I´ve tried putting them in the olive oil while I fry the garlic, which is how I usually start a sauce. And after putting the tomatoes in. I´ve also tried grinding them, and I´ve tried fresh fennel too. Nothing works.

After eating this pizza for ten years, I have been careful to analyse the flavour. And it leads me to think it is made of a combination of these:

Mustard seed/powder
Black pepper
Onion powder

Addiotinally I´m unsure if they use crushed dry chili, and paprica powder. I´m also not sure thyme is the right herb, but this flavour is so strange it is hard to tell. It might even be a more generic herb like parsilly

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  1. I probably have no business posting here because I don't know the sauce you're talking about, and I'm no expert on pizza (though I make them at home). One thought is yes, it's probably fennel seed (seems a more traditionally Italian ingredient than anise) and two, you either didn't use enough fennel or you added it too early in the cooking time. Herbs tend to lose their distinctive flavors with long cooking (though they can contribute subtly, like thyme/oregano) so add it toward the end of the cooking time for your sauce. And grind your fennel from whole seeds just before using.

    1. Comestible offers some excellent points with respect to handling the herbs. With all of the possibilities for ingredients that you list in describing what you believe is in the sauce, you've got a very road ahead of you. Each of the "suspect" ingredients, except perhaps for the paprika, has the potential for a very strong flavor influence and a slight variation of one when compared to another can throw a sauce flavor in an entirely different direction. You also say that you "fry the garlic". Does that mean you're browning the garlic? Browned garlic becomes bitter. For a sauce, you want to cook the garlic in the oil at a relatively low temperature, just long enough for the garlic to flavor the oil. Then, remove the garlic, add your other ingredients and at the point where you might want to simmer the sauce, add the garlic back into the mix. Last point - Europeans typically shop daily for their ingredients and their recipes often include fresh herbs and spices rather than the dried varieties used in this country. If it's possible that your Connecticut restaurant had access to fresh ingredients it'll be difficult to duplicate their sauce with dried goods.

      6 Replies
      1. re: todao

        I´ve used both fresh and dry herbs in my ten years of pizzamaking, and my opinion is that fresh are the best. Though it was new to me that they loose flavour after prolongued cooking. I simmer my sauce on low temperature for quite some time. And yes, I dont brown the garlic.

        Still looking for more answers to this. Perhaps from someone who lives in Connecticut and are familiar with their way of cooking and influences. I can always try to use more fennel, but it doesnt seem right to use several tablespoons of it.

        1. re: Ramius

          Try adding an anise liqueur, such as Sambuca, and see if that helps. Not only does it have an extremely strong anise flavor, the addition of alcohol brings out flavor compounds in tomatoes that you miss otherwise.

          1. re: Ramius

            Both Peter Reinhart (in the last paragraph) at


            and Jeff Varasano (about one third of the way down the page) at


            suggest not heating the sauce - if you heat the sauce and then bake it on the pie in the oven , you're essentially cooking it twice.
            They don't specifically say, but perhaps one of the reasons is that some of the flavor "gets lost" in the second cooking.

            I suppose you could make your sauce and do a test by taking half and simmering it and leaving the other half at room temp - make a pie with each and see if there is any difference after baking.

            1. re: Bryan Pepperseed

              I dont quite support this claim. Heat is needed to melt the sugar into the sauce, the extract the oils out of the spices into the sauce, for some of the liquid to evaporate and thicken the sauce.

              I dont think this is my problem at all though, cause I have tried all variations in the method of preparing the sauce. Even just stirring it cold together, with no heat at all.

              And I dont think the Sambucca is the answer here, because this is a commercial pizza chain, and most likely do not add booze into their sauces.

              Anyone familiar with cooking here who knows how to make fennel really shine? Are there some other spices that backs up the aroma of fennel and strengthens it?

              And is there anyone who has tried MSG in their tomato sauce?

              1. re: Ramius

                you can try bruising the fennel seeds with a mortar & pestle, then frying them in the oil. pizza sauce doesn't need the long slow simmer of a sunday sauce, but you do need some heat to get it going.

                sambuca is very sweet and very strong. i doubt that would be in there. perhaps a shot of anisette?

                traditionally, dried herbs are used in the beginning of cooking, with fresh ones added at the end. yes, the flavor gets lost otherwise.

                msg is not something you'd find in a pizza shop.

        2. Have you tried tarragon instead of fennel? Both impart a licorice like flavor and both are used in Norwegian cooking.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Coogles

            That could be the key - fresh tarragon in particular has a distinct licorice flavor to it, the dried not so much, at least to my palate.

            1. re: BobB

              I agree, sounds like maybe tarragon is the key. Fresh, for sure.

              1. re: ChristinaMason

                No one has mentioned caraway seeds which have a kind of fennel flavor. I added them to the 'meatza' (pizza with a meat crust, not bread) as I didn't have the usual Italian sausage to mix with ground beef or turkey that I usually do.

          2. I just tried a Google search using "pizza with fennel" and that returned quite a few ideas right on the first page. In all cases, it was fresh fennel, and in most cases it had been sauteed to the point of caramelization, sometimes along with onions. In another case, it was roasted in the oven.

            However, these used few or no tomatoes. More of a "white pie" with onions and cheeses. The "Norwegian connection" you mentioned hints at a very unusual recipe. My take on it is that cooked fennel is actually rather mild and tomatoes can overpower it. But it actually got me very interested in using fennel on my next pizza!

            1 Reply
            1. re: comestible

              comestible, this thread has me thinking the same thing! I'm going to grill or roast some fennel and put it on my next pizza. A white pizza. Will need to think about what kind of cheese. Might be right up there with our fig, bleu cheese and smoked chicken pizza :)

              As to fennel flavor it could be fennel seeds (has a sausage flavor without the meat or calories). Maybe the fennel seeds were sauteed in olive oil and removed? Or maybe some roasted fresh fennel? I don't like the sound of fennel in pizza sauce. This is not the first time something didn't sound appealing and ended up being delicious. Good luck with your pizza mystery :) No plans to head to CT for pizza any time soon . . .

            2. I'm guessing that you have asked them for the ingredients but they won't give them to you? I use fennel seed in a few tomato based recipes. If it is good, sauteeing it in oil and then cooking for awhile in the tomato sauce- should give you lots of fennel flavor.( anise seed is a little sweeter imo but it could be what he uses. can you not see the seed when you deconstruct a slice?) I would instinctively doubt sambuca as an ingredient. and fresh fennel/vegetable would not likely give you as strong a fennel flavor as you have described.

              i would suggest making a master batch of simple tomato sauce(tomatoes, onion, garlic, oil, s and p) and then dividing it and tinkering with each division, keeping accurate notes.that way you could try a batch heavier on the fennel seed etc.

              another option involves lying. you could call and tell them that you want to serve it to friends but that , between them, they have many many food allergies. and you need to know all the ingredients so you can check with them. "yes, even the spices." In the U.S. these last years, allergies have become such a huge issue in the food industry that chefs are more used to getting these requests re: ingredients.

              then again, you could take a cue from the hilarious Japanese movie, Tampopo, and go through their trash... or make friends w/ the teenage prep boy!

              1. I dont understand how people here seem to think there must be something norwegian about this recipe. I have not stated such a thing at all. Quite the oposite; i have stated that the recipe comes from an american from the state Connecticut, who was taught the way of the pizza at Frank Pepes.

                His recipe has nothing norwegian about it. Anything "tomato" is as far away from norwegian cuisine as you can get.

                Im gonna try to ground the seeds and put the fennel in with the oil. But i might have to drop the dried chilis then.

                This recipe is as secret in norway as Kfc is in america. Theres nobody in the restaurants that knows it.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Ramius

                  "I dont understand how people here seem to think there must be something norwegian about this recipe. I have not stated such a thing at all."

                  I think we were led to think so by your first sentence, "I'm trying to copy a pizza sauce from Norway."

                2. When I was reading your ingredient list I couldn't help but think about a dish I made with pasta that was out of this world. I made it with turkey meatballs, and sausages. The sausages had a lot of fennel in them and after cooking them and the meatballs in the tomato sauce for several hours, the sauce just permeated through. It's one of the best pasta dishes I've ever made. I can totally see, cooking that sauce down and using it on a pizza for the base. So, your request or inquiry for ingredients isn't odd to me at all, they sound delightfully sumptuous.

                  You can get that flavor with sausage and cooking it like I mentioned - i didn't break them up, I left them whole-now I'm thinking, my gosh how could it get any better! i mean think about it, the turkey meatballs took on the flavor and were just delicious. I'm thinking that you can make your own dry spice mix, just as if you were going to make your own sausage. Mixing fennel, dried lemon peel, thyme, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, onion powder, bp, mustard seed, and then toasting it all in a dry hot cast iron pan. Then using only the best canned tomatoes, combine and cook. I can't tell you how much in the way of measurements, you're going to have to do some work here. But I totally get that flavor profile you're speaking of, I LOVE fennel in tomato sauce. As it cooks slowly, it gets so rich in depth its crazy, and that's probably this guys secret weapon. All you'd need to do is remove the sausage, orrrrrr you can break it up and use it in the pizza sauce.
                  Anyway, after we ate dinner that night, we were so pleased that my husband and I thought if only we could bottle that sauce we'd never have to work again!!! haha!
                  ps/ they were hot and mild/sweet Italian sausages-I can't recall the brand. Not inexpensive stuff, but not over the top either. I'll try to find the recipe, I wrote it down somewhere- that is if you want it.
                  All kidding aside. I get you. Good luck with working on this project and I wish you all kinds of luck cracking the code.

                  You can do it!

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: chef chicklet

                    Oh you bet i go out og my way to get them San Marzano tomatoes here. What is "bp" btw?

                    Your dish sounds good, but i doubt they make their sauce with sausage. Maybe some kind of stock though, but too many spices AND additional meat flavour in the sauce seems unethical when you got the worlds best tomatoes. All that would mask their flavour completely.

                    1. re: Ramius

                      yep, keep it simple and don't cook the sauce that long, so as to retain the bright red color and fresh taste. i have never seen a tomato sauce (marinara) recipe that included stock.

                      1. re: Ramius

                        What is "bp" btw?
                        black pepper

                    2. Has anyone watched the show Secret Recipe? There was an episode where they put mustard in the tomatobased barbeque sauce.

                      Is anyone familiar with mustard in tomato sauces? Maybe I should screw the seeds, and add a teaspoon or tablespoon of strong mustard to the pizza sauce.

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: Ramius

                        They put mustard in BARBEQUE sauce, NOT pizza sauce.

                        I think grinding up (great quality) dried fennel seeds might be the answer; make sure you buy them from the best spice shop in your area.

                        1. re: walker

                          A barbeque sauce and pizza sauce is not that different. And especially wierd was it that he put mustard in the bbq sauce which was based on tomato ketchup.

                          It would make more sense in yellow bbq sauce of german origin, but he used in tomato bbq. It would have some of the same effect in pizza sauce. But pizza sauce has much less acidity.

                        2. re: Ramius

                          no no no. mustard for the tang in bbq sauce, not tomato sauce.

                          1. re: opinionatedchef

                            Can you please elaborate? If you try to give guidance, you must provide some explenation. What do you mean by "Tang"?

                            1. re: Ramius

                              'tang' in english means the acid flavor associated w/ vinegar or citrus.pickles are tangy. orange juice is tangy. A popular instant orange drink in u.s. has brand name of 'Tang".
                              mustard has vinegar in it, and it is mustard that gives bbq sauce its tang, along w/ Worcestershire sauce, which contains tamarind which has a citrus-like effect.

                              1. re: Ramius

                                nobody but the op has had this pizza sauce. for the rest of us, it's like throwing spaghetti at a wall trying to figure out what was in it.

                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                  I assume with a pizza sauce that usually have no acidity, a dash of mustard would give it a bit of "tang", that this sauce I´m copying has.

                                  It is also not unheard of combining the flavour of tomato with mustard. We do it on our hot dogs all the time. The tomato-bbq sauce in secret recipe had it. And it is also used for marinating meat in several steak houses.

                                  So the use of mustard in this way is widespread in food cultures throughout the US, and maybe it´s not so unthinkable that the pizzachef from Connecticut, used it as well.

                                  1. re: Ramius

                                    tomatoes are naturally high acid.

                                    while i frequently combine mustard with tomatoes, in salads and tarts, for example, i don't know this is the road you want to travel for pizza sauce.

                                    1. re: Ramius

                                      ramius, i would suggest that red wine vinegar or other vinegar might be acceptable for tang in a marinara sauce but defintely not mustard*. but i think you are intent on thinking your own thoughts so i will sign out now. best of luck.

                                      * the presence of yellow mustard definitey affects the color of a tomato sauce- making it more rust or orange colored, depending upon quantity used.

                              2. re: Ramius

                                Another NO for mustard in tomato sauce . . .

                                Mustard or mustard powder is used in mac n cheese to bring out the flavor of the cheese.

                              3. I agree with the person that said try a liqueur. The reason is that I once had a very delicious sauce with a distinct flavor in Turkey and found out that it had a anise liquor in the sauce. So my suggestion is to try a pastis or ouzo or something like that. I google'd and found that there is a Scandanavian liqueur called Akavit that is anise flavored.

                                If you find out the secret, let us know.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: whinendine

                                  I was thinking along these lines, too. Much like adding a shot of Pernod to a pasta sauce. This could be the ticket.

                                  1. re: whinendine

                                    I originally suggested a liqueur (Sambuca, ouzo, Pernod, any of them would work), and I stand by that suggestion as I think it would not only add concentrated anise flavor but also allow those flavor compounds in the tomatoes that are alcohol soluable to shine. However, I also think that trying another anise-flavored herb could work. Tarragon is a good idea, but I don't think anyone has yet suggested star anise. To my palate, there is NOTHING stronger than star anise, and I think it might cut through the tomato flavor more than fennel/fennel seed or even tarragon.

                                  2. Just happened to think, if you need a concentrated flavor hit, you can buy many herb extracts or "Oil of...(fennel, thyme, anise, etc.)" You rarely see them called for in actual cooking, but in this case, why not? Careful, can be very intense flavors.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: comestible

                                      That´s good advice. I bumped into a store recently that sold these extracts. Maybe I should get some fennel extract.

                                    2. I just made a new bawl of pizza sauce. And I can reccomend to everyone putting a teaspoon or two of strong mustard. It gives it a special "tang" that make the taste pierce through the cheese more.

                                      I also used my theorised spice blend of fennel and thyme. But unfortunatly, the fennel got lost again. Despite me using three tablespoons of it, grounding it fresh in the mortar, and opening their flavour in the searing oil.

                                      The smell and everything is all there in the beginning, but somehow the fennel flavour gets lost.

                                      14 Replies
                                      1. re: Ramius

                                        For your fennel (or anise) try this. Make your pizza sauce then only when it is finished and cold, add some ground up fennel seed. Then use it on your pizza.

                                        Experiment with raw ground up fennel seed and toasted ground up fennel seed. Look up the recipes for making Italian fennel sausage. The sames spices they use, try in your pizza sauce.

                                        I'll also bet if you evenly sprinkled fresh ground fennel seed onto your pizza pie dough. Then put on the cheese and tomatoes sauce you would get good results

                                        1. re: zzDan

                                          If you are referring to a specific blend of spices in a recipe, can you post that recipe you are referring to?

                                          Roasting the seeds sounds smart. As I have done that with black pepper and gotten good results. I´ll try it.

                                          I´ve also looked up Fennelseed extracts and oils on amazon. But most seems to be some sort of health medicine. I´m unsure if they can be used in cooking.

                                          1. re: Ramius

                                            No specific blend or recipe.... I have never tasted that sauce but I like fennel sausage. Roasting is just a possibility to try. If you have an electric coffee mill you can grind raw fennel or toasted fennel seeds into a powder and add them to your sauce. I grind up raw caraway and cumin seed and add to bread dough to make bread.

                                            Try cooking some whole fennel seeds in plain water by themselves. Cook them for 15-30-60 minutes. Do they get soft? What do they taste like? How strong do they taste?

                                            How about cook one ounce of fennel seed for one hour then slowly add your pizza sauce and see how much you can add and still have strong fennel taste.

                                            1. re: Ramius


                                              Here is someone using ground fennel seeds in pizza sauce.

                                              1. re: Ramius

                                                Ultimate pizza sauce (1 teaspoon fennel seeds)

                                                A key ingredient in this recipe are the fennel seeds...don't leave them out! It's just not the same without them.

                                                1. re: zzDan

                                                  Found that one before and decided not to try it. Butter in tomatosauce just sounds completely wrong.

                                                  And I´ve never tried parmesan in sauce before. That alone is worthy of a discussion. What are the benefits?

                                                  1. re: Ramius

                                                    Many traditional Italian tomato-based sauces include butter. Look through one of Marcella Hazan's cookbooks and you'll find plenty of examples.

                                                    1. re: BobB

                                                      Honestly that sounds disgusting. I might be dead wrong about this. But what does so little butter contribute to the taste of a tomato sauce?

                                                      Anyone in here who can answer from experience?

                                                      1. re: Ramius

                                                        It adds a certain creaminess, a nice mouth feel, can help to emulsify a sauce, and perhaps adds a bit to the flavor as well. I honestly don't understand why you find it so off-putting, to me it seems perfectly natural. But hey, your palate is your palate, by all means don't make it if it grosses you out.

                                                        1. re: BobB

                                                          After having brushed up on my knowledge of MSG lately, I´ve found that parmesan is actually the one thing containing more natural glutatmate than anything else, which is something that creates the fifth taste sensation.

                                                          It now makes perfect sense to me that this is used in tomato sauces. Tomatoes which are naturally high in glutamates themselves.

                                                          So I will definitly try adding parmesan cheese in my next batch of tomato sauce. How much of it do people use here?

                                                          1. re: Ramius

                                                            If you do, don't over do it. Used injudiciously, it can make for an unpleasantly salty pizza. Same with other very assertive cheeses.

                                                    2. re: Ramius

                                                      Most sauces have lots of butter.

                                                      Ada Boni uses olive oil, not butter.

                                                      1. re: financialdistrictresident

                                                        I´m gonna try this recipe tonight. But when it says cellery, does the recipe mean cellery stalk, or root?

                                            2. Swedish flatbread is flavored with aniseed and fennel seed. Maybe the fennel/anise flavor is also coming from the crust in the pizza?

                                              1. Fennel seed and parsley make for a delicious and classic American pizza flavoring, especially if it's a sausage pizza. But that fennel seed flavor does not have a strong and distinctive licorice flavor -- it is a more subtle licorice flavor that you kind of need to chew and suck on the seeds to really extract.

                                                In fact, while I love fennel seed-flavored pizza, I have a bit of an aversion to strong licorice flavor, and I don't think I would like a pizza sauce that had a strong licorice- or anise-like flavor very much.

                                                That aside, have you considered trying some fresh fennel (macerated bulb, and maybe even some fresh fronds) added toward the end of cooking in your tomato sauce? That should give you a licorice flavor.

                                                8 Replies
                                                1. re: racer x

                                                  Wow, how come you have not answered before now?

                                                  I was thinking the Thyme is all wrong in my recipe. I actually think it might be simple old parsley. But how come you´re the first one in here, that suddenly calls this a classic flavour combination?

                                                  Where do you live? And how is this combo classic? Where have you tasted it before, and where is it commonly used?

                                                  1. re: Ramius

                                                    I don't know where it's commonly used today. I grew up eating pizza like that from pizzerias in Chicago and elsewhere in the Midwest -- and I'm talking about thin-crust pizzas, not deep dish. At one point, you could even find those flavors on the cheap frozen "pizzas" you bought in the supermarket.

                                                    As I and others noted above, the fennel seed though is most strongly associated with pizza made with Italian sausage, as there is a kind of (American) Italian sausage made with fennel seed.
                                                    Living outside the Midwest for years now, I've noticed that in many parts of the US it's hard to find good sausage pizza, and the sausage pizzas you do find often don't contain fennel seed. This was particularly true in New York City -- go into the local supermarket looking for sausage pizza and you would usually come out empty-handed. (Not so in Chicago, at least int the past.) And the restaurants and pizzerias that did offer sausage pizzas in many cases would just slice some sausage (pepperoni-style) rather than use crumbled Italian sausage or little Italian sausage meatballs, a key ingredient. Places that use that sliced sausage typically wouldn't be using fennel seed sausage.

                                                    Part of the problem may be that there is a certain subset of the population that really dislikes any fennel flavor.

                                                    However, as I noted in my previous post, the kind of fennel seed flavoring I'm talking about had a very mild fennel flavor. It wasn't anywhere near as strong as licorice. If you are looking for a strong licorice/anise flavor, you're probably looking for something a little different than what I used to enjoy on pizzas.

                                                    1. re: racer x

                                                      I´m not sure of that. My problem is that I don´t get to taste the fennel at all. And maybe we just use words as "strong" or "weak" with different criteria.

                                                      And forget about the sausage. This pizza I´m copying uses it in the sauce for all their pizzas. And their slogun is that they brought Chicago style pizza to Norway. And they did it in the 1960s.

                                                      However, it is not a deep dish style pizza, as you say. But it is neither an italian hand tossed thin crust. It is still made in a dish/ baking pan for pizzas, but which is quite larger. So it´s like double as thick as an italian classical pizza.

                                                      These pizzas are what we refer to commonly as american pizza here in Norway.

                                                      1. re: Ramius

                                                        Since you said in your op that you were trying to duplicate a pizza sauce from Norway, might I suggest you try an anise-flavored liqueur, or even akvavit, in the sauce?

                                                        1. re: Ramius

                                                          And forget about the sausage. This pizza I´m copying uses it in the sauce for all their pizzas. And their slogun is that they brought Chicago style pizza to Norway. And they did it in the 1960s.


                                                          lol, there is a chain in canada called "boston pizza." i don't think the owner has ever been to boston, much less had pizza here.

                                                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                            I remember driving through New Jersey back in the '70s and saw a place that said it served "Boston-style" pizza. Being a native Bostonian, I had to stop and check it out. Turns out they were serving pizza made with cheddar instead of mozzarella. I told them we don't do that in Boston. They told me quite colorfully exactly how much they cared.

                                                            1. re: BobB

                                                              Ha! I love it when people put cheddar on Mexican food......

                                                        2. re: racer x

                                                          i grew up part of an italian-american family in brooklyn. "supermarket" pizza was never a thing. you got pies at the pizzeria, and crumbled sausage meat, not slices in casing, was what i grew up eating on pizza. not sure where you were eating pizza in ny, but fennel is very common in sausage there.

                                                          same is true here in boston. italian sausage has fennel, however it's very uncommon in pizza sauce.

                                                          another poster mentioned uncooked tomato sauce, which is pretty common up here too.

                                                    2. Have you tried fennel pollen? There's a good discussion at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/557718 .

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: NovaVeg

                                                        That was my thought and one poster at that thread had it on their pizza.

                                                        1. re: NovaVeg

                                                          fennel pollen would not have been on a 1960s pizza.

                                                        2. I never precook my pizza sauce. Just throw some good-quality canned tomatoes into the blender with a bit of olive oil, quite a lot of DRIED oregano (almost always more flavorful than fresh), a few red pepper flakes, some salt, and some fennel seeds. Blend away. If you want a thicker, stronger sauce, throw in a couple tablespoons of tomato paste. If you like sweeter sauce, throw in just a bit of sugar or honey. Parmesan can be added for something really different.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: sandylc

                                                            Then I think you are making sauce beneath my level of skill. That sauce you speak of is weak in taste, and does not have commercial quality. Also, I come from the school of thought that fresh ingredientses are the best, and certainly disagree with you that dried herbs have more flavour than fresh.

                                                            I´ve completely stopped buying dried herbs as a matter of fact.

                                                            1. re: Ramius

                                                              I think I am making sauce above your taste/knowledge level.

                                                              Dried oregano is almost always better than fresh, due to many strains of oregano having little to no flavor in them. This is generally accepted knowledge. I said nothing about any herbs other than oregano being better dried.

                                                              This sauce is FRESH in taste, and lacking the overpowering MSG and garbage in most poor-quality commercial sauces.

                                                              1. re: Ramius

                                                                Your response here seems odd to me, in that you're energetically asking for help but are dismissive when it suits you. Dried herbs definitely have their role in cooking. It's somewhat like a message above where you dismiss someone's idea of butter in tomato sauces. Whether or not you know it, these things are done here and there by competent people.

                                                                Regarding your larger theme: I don't think that anyone so far has suggested using Pernod or Ouzo or the like as a finishing element in the sauce (anise-flavored). Might give you the needed kick.

                                                            2. Here's a recipe that I adapted from one of Emeril's recipes:

                                                              Chicago Deep Dish Pizza Sauce

                                                              Makes 3 cups, (enough sauce for one 12-inch deep-dish pizza, more or less depending on your tastes)

                                                              2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
                                                              1 Tablespoon Garlic, fresh minced
                                                              2 teaspoons Basil, chopped fresh
                                                              1 teaspoon Oregano, chopped fresh
                                                              1/4 teaspoon Fennel Seeds (I have a lot of Penzey's anise seeds on hand and use those instead)
                                                              1/2 teaspoon Table Salt, (or to taste)
                                                              1/8 teaspoon Black Pepper, freshly ground
                                                              1/8 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes, (or to taste)
                                                              1 (28 oz) can Italian-style whole peeled tomatoes, lightly squished
                                                              1/2 teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar
                                                              1 teaspoon White Granulated Sugar

                                                              In a saucepan over medium-high heat, heat oil. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add herbs, seeds, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and sugar and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat. Allow the sauce to cool completely before using.

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: Antilope

                                                                Exciting recipe Antilope. Are you aware that it contradicts several peoples advices in this thread? Especially concering adding fresh herbs FIRST, and then slow simmering them.

                                                                I slow simmer with fresh herbs myself, and often use the combination of basil and oregano at the same time. So I like this recipe, but I´ve never tried balsamic vinegar in the sauce. How is that like?

                                                                1. re: Ramius

                                                                  It adds a brightness to the sauce, but you don't want to add too much or it overwhelms it.

                                                                  1. re: Ramius

                                                                    cheap balsamic is akin to corn syrup and adding sugar to any kind of tomato sauce would be considered heresy by any italian.

                                                                    fresh herbs simply don't hold their flavor if put through a long simmer. it's a pretty basic cooking technique.

                                                                    dried herbs like oregano, thyme and rosemary have their place and are best "fried" in the oil before adding other ingredients or liquid.

                                                                    you're dismissive in some peculiar ways.

                                                                2. I usually put fennel seed in a mortar and pestle, grind it, grate some nutmeg, and toast the mixture in a dry iron skillet and add the combination to my pasta sauces, including Bolognese. I haven't tried the pizza sauce you are referring to but I can tell you this combination is good.

                                                                  1. Forget the seeds. Have you tried roasting and pureeing and actual bulb or two of fresh fennel and then incorporating it into your tomatoes?

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: adido

                                                                      Yes I have. Result: Sauce didn´t taste tomato any more.

                                                                      1. re: Ramius

                                                                        Maybe add a concentrated tomato paste to counter balance? Pull back on the fennel to half a bulb...? I don't know what to tell you, you've had cooking enthusiasts and professionals trying to help you for months with no success. Time for plan B…?
                                                                        In the U.S. we have several websites where they give you recipes to make mass market foods at home. You should see if you could write to them. Also an American magazine called Bon Appétit has a section where you write in and request a favorite recipe from a restaurant and they contact the restaurant and get it for you. Not sure if bigger chains would participate.

                                                                        1. re: adido

                                                                          The seed is what contains the flavour to be used as spice. I´ll have to use up each batch of these sauces before I can make a new attempt lol, and the last for atleast a month each time.

                                                                    2. You may be thinking of oregano. All the best pizza sauces have oregano in them. Fresh oregano is very different from the dried, and may be the source of the taste you have in mind. Give it a shot.

                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                      1. re: DManzi

                                                                        I agree that great pizza sauce is going to involve oregano, and fresh and dry are quite different. It seems to me, also, that there are spice based tomato sauces (cinnamon, nutmeg, fennel, etc.) and herb based (horegano, basil, etc.) and I rarely taste a sauce using both herbs and spices (except, of ourselves, pepper) that really lights me up.

                                                                        1. re: tim irvine

                                                                          I think most of us have been going by the assumption that whatever the originator used/uses in his pizzas, it was based on what he would have experienced while working at Pepe's Pizza in the 1960s. The oregano is just too obvious, and not really licorice- or anise-like to me. Nutmeg and cinnamon seem unlikely for Pepe's in 1960s.

                                                                          But then maybe our original assumption (or the OP's sense of a licorice-like flavor) is flat-out wrong.

                                                                          1. re: racer x

                                                                            Thanks for speaking sense. And no it is not oregano.

                                                                            Don´t you think I would know the flavour of oregano after 10 years of pizzamaking?

                                                                            Yes there are a number of influences that might lead to the answer.
                                                                            1. He learned to make pizza at Pepe´s.
                                                                            2. He lived in Connecticut.
                                                                            3. He called his pizza Chicago style in the 1960s.

                                                                            1. re: Ramius

                                                                              if pepe's is in connecticut, why did he call his pies, "chicago style"?

                                                                              a lot of the ingredients that folks are recommending like fennel pollen, star anise and roasted fennel simply would not have been in any kind of american pizza in the 60s. whatever this guy did to make his signature pie could have morphed quite a bit from anything he learned at pepe's.

                                                                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                Exactly, but if there is even one spice, technique or secret he learned at Pepe´s, it might hold the key. That might have helped him make his own great sauce.

                                                                      2. http://www.pepespizzeria.com/?page=co...

                                                                        Have you tried reaching out to the restaurant? It is still open (and famous on the east coast of the USA) and they might help you solve the mystery. The item is currently on their menu and you probably aren’t going to be a competitive risk. Somebody might know somebody who knew the recipe - you never know. You might even want to share this thread with them.

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: adido

                                                                          they are rightly famous for their white clam pizza.

                                                                          i've had their red sauce pizza too and it caused no flavor profile conundrums for me. what they serve and what this other guy apparently made are two entirely different things.

                                                                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                            I've had pizza from Pepe's just once
                                                                            There was nothing particularly interesting about the sauce.

                                                                            But this was decades after the guy would have worked there, and just one pizza, so that doesn't tell you much.

                                                                            The other thought is you could ask on slice.seriouseats.com.

                                                                            1. re: racer x

                                                                              My mistake - i meant to say "is NOT currently on the menu." Thought staff/owners would know some old timers who might be able to help.

                                                                        2. Well I just tried making that ultimate pizza sauce recipe. But of course in my own way. And so far I really am impressed with the richness fresh sautéed cellery and onion brings to the sauce. With the traditional garlic as well.

                                                                          Also, the parmesan cheese IN the sauce really gives it more depth.

                                                                          However, strangely enough, I roasted three tablespoons of fennel seeds, ground them in the mortar, then simmered them in the oil, and let the sauce cook long. But still, the fennel flavour disappears.

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Ramius

                                                                            Seriously, try star anise instead. To my palate, there's nothing stronger or more pervasive.

                                                                            1. re: biondanonima

                                                                              I will, because I just tried my new sauce, and am ready to give up on fennel.

                                                                              I think I have stumbled upon a strange phenomenon: The inability to taste my own sauce.

                                                                              How come whenever I eat pizza out at a restaurant, I taste their sauce easily, but when I make it myself, I don´t taste my own sauce?

                                                                              1. re: Ramius

                                                                                Smelling it during preparation dulls your ability to taste it. Make it and chill it for the next day and you might be able to taste it better.

                                                                          2. You can actually buy this sauce I´m replicating in the store. As they´ve launched their line of "make it yourself" products. However, in the ingredient list, it simply says "spices" which is where their secret is.

                                                                            However, they list three chemicals, which I hope to get some views on here. Any food chemists in here?
                                                                            They use the following in their sauce:
                                                                            -Potassium sorbate
                                                                            -Sodium acetate
                                                                            -Lactic acid

                                                                            All of these seem to primarly be used for concerving the sauce. But its interesting to see wikipedia claims Sodium Acetate is some times used as a seasoning, with a sort of vinegardy-flavour.

                                                                            1. Well folks, I made alot of progress today. I followed the advice of several people and DID NOT COOK the sauce at all.

                                                                              I just blended everything fresh, and it tasted ALOT better than my past sauces. The taste of fennel was also much much obvious, and this pleased me the most!

                                                                              San Marzano tomatoes
                                                                              Fresh basil
                                                                              Two tablespoons of fennel
                                                                              Alot of freshly ground black pepper
                                                                              1,5 tablespoons of salt
                                                                              Two tablespoons of vinegard
                                                                              One tablespoon of chilipowder
                                                                              Three tablespoons of brown sugar
                                                                              Dash of olive oil
                                                                              Half a big garlic finely diced

                                                                              12 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Ramius

                                                                                Just want to say that this resulted in a epic conclusion. I just made pizza with this fresh sauce, and it turned out even BETTER than the sauce I was trying to copy.

                                                                                Keeping everything fresh and not boiling made all the difference. And the wonderfull tastes of fennel and basil really stood out.

                                                                                THis is the best advice I´ve gotten in my years of pizzamaking. And I will stick to it forever now. FRESH SAUCE!!!!!!

                                                                                I can almost start over now, retrying old spiceblends and stuff, to see how it works in a fresh sauce.

                                                                                1. re: Ramius

                                                                                  Have I now fallen off of your stupid list? : - )

                                                                                  1. re: sandylc

                                                                                    I mostly disagreed with you on the dried herbs. And still disagree with that. I say try fresh herbs in your sauce and be blown away. I used fresh basil in my batch of sauce now, and the taste was amazing. But use ALOT of it when you first have it.

                                                                                    But you absolutely did that one thing right, with not cooking it. I pestled my fennel seeds first. Cause I didnt think the blender would cut them up properly, since they are so small.

                                                                                    I´m gonna try fresh oregano, mustard seeds and red wine next time.

                                                                                    1. re: Ramius

                                                                                      I would never use and have never even purchased dried basil. I did not recommend it to you, either. I did recommend dried oregano, because it is commonly accepted that oregano is usually superior in its dried form.

                                                                                      With all due respect, I do much more than "one thing" right when making pizza, thank you very much.

                                                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                                                        Fresh oregano is better! Fresh is always best. This is the universal rule of food. I should have realised this better myself, to avoid cooking the sauce. Because then it is not fresh any more.

                                                                                        1. re: Ramius

                                                                                          not true.
                                                                                          I agree that dried oregano is better for sauce, it has a much more concentrated flavor.

                                                                                2. re: Ramius

                                                                                  Glad you were successful. Was the fennel ground up? If not then how about "soaking" the whole fennel seeds for a few days in your refrigerator in a bit of tomato sauce or water then combine this with your pizza sauce. This way the fennel flavor leaks out more.

                                                                                  1. re: zzDan

                                                                                    I ground the fennel up with a mortar. And the taste was very present. Amazing effect. And so strange to see that fennel does not really survive cooking. It completely disappears. But once you mix it with fresh tomatoes and don´t cook it, its like fennel and tomato were meant to be.

                                                                                    1. re: Ramius

                                                                                      If fennel doesn't survive cooking, how does it survive the pizza baking?

                                                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                                                        Excellent! And I don´t know why.

                                                                                        Maybe its because I bake my pizzas in a professional oven. At nearly 400 degrees celcius. The cheese barely melts, and then it is done!

                                                                                        That, combined with the fact that I did cook the sauce quite alot longer, than the pizza ever is in the oven.

                                                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                                                          i frequently use fennel seeds in sauce, meatballs and roasted sausage/peppers/potatoes and its flavor most definitely does not disappear.

                                                                                        2. re: Ramius

                                                                                          "And so strange to see that fennel does not really survive cooking"

                                                                                          Thanks much for all that.
                                                                                          Too much fennel essence evaporates into the air when cooked. I'm glad you succeeded and hope this makes you some profits one way or another. I may grind up some uncooked fennel meself! Not joking but I am in USA so you have Norway and Scandinavia to yourself as far as this uncooked fennel trick. I grind up uncooked cumin seed for my bread so I am a little bit close to you

                                                                                    2. Someone may have asked this: Have you eaten a pizza at Pepe's?

                                                                                      27 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: Rella

                                                                                        Me? Never.
                                                                                        I would certainly like to try though. Heard its a historic place for pizza.

                                                                                        1. re: Ramius

                                                                                          It is indeed an historic pizza place; as is "Sally's."
                                                                                          People have their preferences - mine is "Sally's," the 'other' historic pizza place close by.

                                                                                          1. re: Rella

                                                                                            Interesting. They only got two pizza on their menu?

                                                                                            Strange that all these important pizza places are in Connecticut. Not exactly my ideal traveling destination when I first go to the US.

                                                                                            1. re: Ramius

                                                                                              That's understandable. Where would you go for a 'famous' pizza?

                                                                                              American-Italian population of CT is second to Rhode Island -

                                                                                              A particular time I went to a pizza 'place' in NYC that was No. 1 for a 'slice.' Horrible. Don't ask where - I conveniently forget/forgot.

                                                                                              I'm not saying there is not good pizza in NYC, of course; but I've never had any better in the U.S. than in New Haven, CT.

                                                                                              1. re: Rella

                                                                                                I´ve been to New York twice, and eaten at Lombardis pizza. And that was of course amazing.

                                                                                                Great bread, fresh sauce, fresh cheese, and a variety of good toppings. And HUGE sizes! I can´t get mine as big because my oven is not big enough!

                                                                                                But I need advice for other places to eat pizza in NY too. Because I´ve eaten some really bad pizzas there. At these shops that puts them on display in the counter. And turkish kebab people are expediting you for "real american pizza". They were so dry and tasteless, I started to wonder if great american pizza was a myth.

                                                                                                1. re: Ramius

                                                                                                  Pizza with about 50% +/- blackened crust is what a

                                                                                                  'lot of people' like about some restaurant pizzas. There are some that are so black on the bottom that have no taste other than the charcoal IMO. How's the bottom of the pizza that you are trying to replicate the sauce? Just curious what style of crust you are making in your professional oven.

                                                                                                  1. re: Rella

                                                                                                    The black coloring on crust comes from baking the pizza directly on the heatsource.
                                                                                                    Ideally I try to take my pizza out when the crust is browned nicely all underneath,

                                                                                                    A dough that has more moisture, which is ideal too, will blacken faster. And I´ve changed my dough recipe lately to this kind. And then the ideal is to get it browned evenly, and a few black spots here and there.

                                                                                                    If you´re a good baker, the dough will bubble up on in some places, where the crust will become thinner on each side of the bubble. These areas will blacken, but still taste good.

                                                                                                    The hard trick with pizzamaking is to get the topping and the dough baked at equal speeds. But in many cases, the crust will finish before the topping is. And when that happens, I take the pizza out, and put a steel screen underneath, and lay the pizza back in. With just the top baking and the crust getting rest.

                                                                                                    But many chefs are perhaps too proud of their brick oven to put anything like a metal screen in it. And will burn the crust on purpose, while the topping gets done.

                                                                                                    1. re: Ramius

                                                                                                      The best NYC pizza site in the world is here: http://www.varasanos.com click on "Recipe" on the right and you will see pages of photos, etc. to enthrall.

                                                                                                      1. re: Rella

                                                                                                        Though your pizzas are good in the US. It seems you have alot less meat on them than we do.

                                                                                                        Buying a pizza without meat is not happening for me. No meat, no dinner.

                                                                                                        1. re: Ramius

                                                                                                          Then you wouldn't like a pizza with ONLY tomato sauce. I've ordered it this way, once. Although I really don't care if a pizza has meat or not, one that I will not touch is "pineapple and ham." LOL Sorry if I'm offending anyone here.

                                                                                                          Yes, Yes, I know. Pizza is just bread with anything on top, :-))

                                                                                                          1. re: Rella

                                                                                                            Oh please offend us. If there is anything we need in Norway, it is to have our pizza culture offended. These flavour combinations are put together by iranians and indians.

                                                                                                            I would like a cheese pizza if it was an original Napoli styled margarita. WIth sourdough crust, completely fresh buffalo mozarella, handpicked san marzano tomatoes, and all that. But that would only be a good lunch here. In Norway, you´ve probably noticed - our relationship to pizza is dinner.

                                                                                                            1. re: Ramius


                                                                                                              traditional margherita pizza does not use a sourdough crust, nor require san marzano tomatoes.

                                                                                                              "fresh" san marzanos aren't readily available, since the whole industry revolves around canned product. perhaps you grow your own?

                                                                                                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                I can't put my hands on it now (in my files,) but I did receive quite an epistle of Italy's RULES for a Margherita to be official. Looking on the internet, it looks like there may be many rules :-)

                                                                                                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                  HA hotoy!!! I was just revvingup to respond to the sourdough/san marzano thing when I read further down and saw that you took care of it already....good job!

                                                                                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                    The italian government has patent protected "traditional italian pizza" to contain san marzano tomatoes, and buffalo mozarella.

                                                                                                                    As when it comes to sourdough, that was something I added. Several italian pizzaioli use sourdough, because this is the old way of baking. And the best one.

                                                                                                                    I can get fresh San Marzano tomatoes here in Norway. Surely they can get this in Napoli. Or did you all think I was talking about getting a traditional italian pizza.... in the US? For some reason?

                                                                                                                    1. re: Ramius

                                                                                                                      When I order a Margherita pizza, I always want fresh sliced tomatoes and mozarella. However, here in the US, it comes often with canned tomatoes and not necessarily bufalo mozz.

                                                                                                                      I certainly would be most happy to have sourdough, It is not necessarily sour, but a process of making bread, as you, Ramius, certainly seem to understand well.

                                                                                                                      I understand that San Marzano tomatoes are about terroir, as is wine. Here in the U.S., I would have a hard time finding SM tomatoes from SM.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Ramius

                                                                                                                        with brown sugar in your sauce, i am quite aware you are not making italian-american, nor italian, pizza sauce. i realize you are not in the u.s.

                                                                                                                    2. re: Ramius

                                                                                                                      30 years ago just about all pizzerias in America were owned by Italian immigrants and by Italian-Americans born here (USA). These days the independent pizzerias are owned by Albanian and Greek immigrants, some Italians but fewer than before.... then a wide assortment of other pizzeria owners

                                                                                                              2. re: Ramius

                                                                                                                >>>But many chefs are perhaps too proud of their brick oven to put anything like a metal screen in it. And will burn the crust on purpose, while the topping gets done.>>>

                                                                                                                I have never seen this. I have a professional wood fired pizza oven. When the pizza crust is finished cooking, you simply lift the pizza up toward the domed roof of the oven for a few seconds to cook the top perfectly. You don't need a screen of any kind.

                                                                                                                Also, if you are baking a pizza in a wood fired oven, you often don't cook the sauce first -and you don't use sugar in the sauce. It will burn or it will taste like ketchup.

                                                                                                                1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                                  Several italians use sugar in the sauce. It promotes the sweetness of the tomatoes, and makes the flavour easier to taste with more boldness.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Ramius

                                                                                                                    To each his/her own. I prefer a real tomato taste and a balance of acidity in my pizza sauce.

                                                                                                                    This recipe ( with the fennel, brown sugar and vinegar) is similar to my homemade ketchup. My ketchup is very good. I just don't care for it so much on pizza. I enjoy more acidity and the sweetness to come from fresh mozz and fresh basil on my pizza.

                                                                                                                    But, I suppose I am a heretic anyway..... I can't stand pepperoni pizza ! :)

                                                                                                                    Edit: Here is a very good ketchup recipe and you might like to try it on your pizza. It has a strong fennel flavor and is similar in the combination you are looking for.


                                                                                                                    1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                                      Tomatoes flavour is fragile. So I would never put something like cayenne in it. Because then it becomes more salsa and spicy, and tastes less of tomato.

                                                                                                                      It´s also quite different using half a cup of vinegard, as opposed to a few tablespoons. Unless tablespoons in the US are very big. And remember, I used two cans of tomatoes.

                                                                                                                    2. re: Ramius

                                                                                                                      You are correct. But tasteless white sugar is what you want....not brown sugar which has a small molasses component which detracts from tomatoes

                                                                                                              3. re: Ramius

                                                                                                                You say you need advice on other good NY pizza places. You are correct in saying that not all NY pizza is good...so many are not, but the good places are terrific.

                                                                                                                You could simply do Chowhound searches for pizza (or maybe "best pizza"?) on the Manhattan and Outer Boroughs boards. These discussions will quickly lead you to the best places.

                                                                                                                1. re: comestible

                                                                                                                  Serious Eats is pretty serious about pizza, as well.

                                                                                                                  1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                    Serious Eats gives cudos to the varasano link I showed above.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Rella

                                                                                                                      A basic throw-together pizza. This doesn't call for pizza sauce, but one could be used if desired. Goes well with an Italian Herb thin crust, a Lemon Mint thin crust, as well as a Scallion thin crust.

                                                                                                                      <a href="http://pizzacouponcode.net&quot;&gt;P... hut coupon codes</a>

                                                                                                    2. Maybe this article will help you. http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...
                                                                                                      Here's part of the article :Roasted fennel is remarkable stuff. A good shot of high, dry heat and the crisp vegetable turns seductively sweet, just as the anise flavor mellows.