Many years ago I picked up a book called 500 Pizzas and Flatbreads, and I started making my own pizzas at home. Back then I didn’t have a breadmaker or a proper mixer or any of the nice kitchen gear I have today, and I kneaded everything by hand.
The recipes in the book are great, usually different varieties of toppings and styles using the same basic dough and sauce recipes. This here is their basic pizza sauce recipe, which I have kicked up and improved upon over the years.
One key ingredient which I feel adds a lot to the depth of the sauce is the balsamic vinegar or juice. Two years ago I picked up a bottle of 7-year old aged balsamic vinegar from a quaint little shop in Stresa, Italy. This was nothing like the balsamic vinegar I’ve ever had in my life. While you can still sense the tartness of the vinegar it was also quite sweet and rich in flavor. Adding balsamic vinegar from this particular bottle of mine as a substitute for small amounts of red wine has always given amazing flavor to my Italian dishes. If you do not have any balsamic vinegar on hand, or don’t particularly fancy how sour it is, I highly recommend sticking to prune or red grape juice instead.
Another ingredient worth investing in is San Marzano canned tomatoes. They may cost more, but they make such a huge difference in flavor for your marinaras and tomato-based sauces. I wrote a lot more extensively about San Marzanos in my post for my Sausage Meatballs with Red Gravy recipe, if you want more details.
Use this recipe instead of those store-bought jars. You’ll be surprised how easy it actually is, for something so much healthier and better-tasting.
Basic Pizza Sauce
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
- 2 (400-gram) cans whole peeled plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar OR prune juice OR red grape juice
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil OR 2 teaspoons fresh, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano OR 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds (jintan manis)
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
In a large non-reactive heavy-bottomed skillet over medium high heat, heat the oil.
Add the garlic and cook, until golden, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes, breaking them up into smaller chunks using a wooden spoon. Bring the mixture to a boil.
Add the balsamic vinegar or juice, sugar, basil, oregano, fennel seeds and black pepper.
Lower the heat to medium low and simmer, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce has thickened, 15 to 20 minutes.
Add the salt and red pepper flakes.
Use as needed.