Sauce Tomat, better known as tomato sauce, is a French Mother Sauce based on tomatoes. This base can consist of fresh tomatoes cooked down into a liquid, canned tomatoes, tomato puree or even tomato paste.
“Hey, wait a second now, how is tomato sauce a French Mother sauce when it’s clearly Italian?”
Well, you do know it was the Italians that taught the French to cook right? But that’s a whole other post. Suffice it to say that just like all the other mother sauces, “Sauce Tomat” is an incredibly versatile base sauce that can have any number of variations.
But before we start playing around with tomato sauce, it is important to first understand the classic version. My favorite classical recipe for Sauce Tomat is Escoffier’s version.
Escoffier’s Sauce Tomat Recipe
Although most of the sauce recipes that I’ve been giving for the Mother Sauces yield 1 quart (1 liter), this recipe will yield 2 quarts since you can almost never have enough tomato sauce, and it is always better the next day anyway. For Escoffier’s recipe you will need:
- 2-3 oz (56-84 g) Salt Pork. Salt pork comes from the belly portion of the pig, just like bacon. However, unlike bacon, salt pork is never smoked, and the fattier (more white), the better.
- 3 oz (84 g) Carrots, peeled and medium diced
- 3 oz (84 g) White or Yellow onion, medium diced
- 2 oz (56 g) whole butter
- 2-3 oz (56-84 g) Flour, All Purpose
- 5 lbs (2.25 Kilos) Raw, Good quality tomatoes, quartered
- 1 qt (1 lt) White Veal Stock
- 1 clove freshly crushed garlic
- Salt and Pepper To taste
- Pinch of Sugar
- In his book, Escoffier calls for you to “fry the salt pork in the butter until the pork is nearly melted.” The term frying can be misleading, and what he’s really calling for you to do is to render the fat.
- To render out the salt pork properly, place the salt pork in a heavy bottom saucepan with a tablespoon of water, cover with a lid, and place over medium heat. Check in about 5 minutes. The steam from the water will allow the fat to render out of the salt pork before it starts to brown or burn.
- After the salt pork is nice and rendered out, add in your butter, carrots and onions, and sweat over medium heat for about 5-10 minutes, or until they become nice and tender and start to release their aromatic aromas.
- Sprinkle the flour over the carrots and onions and continue to cook for another few minutes. You’re essentially using the residual fat from the butter and salt pork to make a blond roux.
- Add in your raw tomatoes. Roast with other ingredients until they start to soften and release some of their liquid.
- Add in your white veal stock and a clove of crushed garlic.
- Cover the pot with a lid, and Escoffier says to put it in a moderate oven, which is about 350 degrees F or 175 C. If your sauce pot won’t fit, you can always just simmer it on your stove top. Bake in oven or simmer for 1.5-2 hours.
- Escoffier’s classical recipe also calls for you to pass your finished sauce through a Tamis, but if you’re looking for a smooth tomato sauce, I would instead recommend that you first blend it in a blender, and then press it through a chinois.
- Once you have passed your sauce through the chinois, finish by seasoning it with salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar.
- Note on Sugar: The addition of sugar is used to balance the natural acidity of the tomatoes. Your tomato sauce should not taste sweet, unless you enjoy putting ketchup on your pasta.
Modern Variations on Escoffier’s Sauce Tomat
The major difference between Escoffier’s version of sauce tomat and modern variations that are taught in culinary school are two fold. (1), The Roux is omitted and instead of using fresh tomatoes, canned tomatoes and tomato puree are used in the respective ratio of 2:1 and, (2) Instead of using white veal stock, modern recipes call for the simmering of a roasted ham bone.
Other than that, the process is pretty much the same as discussed above. Follow the same recipe and process, except use 3lbs of canned tomatoes and 2lbs of tomato puree instead of the 5lbs of fresh tomatoes. Simmer for two hours with the addition of a roasted ham bone and omit the veal stock since the tomato puree and canned tomatoes offer plenty liquid for simmering the sauce.
Another modern touch is the common use of aromatic fresh herbs including bay leaves, thyme, basil and oregano. Add these at your own discretion, at the end of the cooking process so that the flavor of the fresh herbs does not break down.
Basic Light Tomato Sauce
If you’re looking for a lighter version of tomato sauce to serve with a more delicate dish such as poached fish, use the ratios and procedure below.
- 1 part mirepoix, (Onions, Carrot and Celery, at a 2:1:1 Ratio), small dice
- 4-5 parts fresh or canned tomatoes
- Fresh Chopped Garlic and Herbs To Taste
- Olive Oil
- Salt and Pepper To Taste
- Butter and Heavy Cream to finish (Optional)
- Start by sweating your mirepoix over medium heat in a sauce pan with a little bit of olive oil.
- Once the mirepoix becomes nice and soft, and starts to release its sweet aroma (about 5-10 minutes) add in your tomatoes and fresh chopped garlic.
- Simmer for 1.5-2 hours. Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar. Add fresh herbs to taste.
- At this point, if you desire a smooth texture, you can blend your sauce and then pass it through a chinois.
- Finish with swirling in some heavy cream and whole butter off the flame. This is optional, but if you’re not averse to butter and cream, it will add a nice flavor and mouth feel.