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Thickening Tomato Sauce

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
One of the things that I love to make is homemade tomato sauce. it tastes so much better than the stuff at the store, and it is just extremely satisfying. I run a couple of cans through a mill to remove the seeds and membranes, heat up the juices and pulp with the rest of the ingredients, bring it up to a simmer, and reduce it. My problem is that the sauce is still fairly runny. I have heard of using cornstarch for thickening some sauces. What are some effective ways that I can thicken the sauce?
post #2 of 26
tomato paste, yes it's not as fresh but it is a good way to thicken it
post #3 of 26
You may not like the answer but you need to cook it longer. When O do my sauce with fresh tomatoes it simmers for close to 12 hours. Usually I make it the day or so before I need it. That way I don't have to do all the cooking in one day. Helps the flavor too. If you're going to go through all the trouble of preparing the tomatoes for cooking why throw in paste.

Paste has it place. I use it but not with fresh tomatoes.

You can also cut your tomatoes the day before you need them, place them in a china cap, collander or chinoise and drain them into a bowl over night. This will also remove a good deal of moisture. :)
post #4 of 26
A number of issues here

Canned Tomatoes
Canned tomatoes can be surprisingly good or plain awful. It sounds like you're using whole tomatoes, a good start. But what are they packed in? As a generalization, puree is better than juice which is better than water. Read your ingredients to find out what you've got. This is probably one of your problems with runniness.

Also look at additives. There are usually two: Salt and Calcium Chloride. Salt offers some flavor and preservative effects. Calcium Chloride has a very salty flavor, is a firming agent as well. Purists avoid the calcium chloride. I have a sodium restricted diet so I actually use a brand with only tomatoes and calcium chloride which works well for me.

I do have to give props to Pomi brand tomatoes whose aseptic packages list but one ingredient: Tomatoes. I used Pomi exclusively when I lived in Germany and was very happy with the product. They're quite a bit more expensive here in Europe.

Muir Glen is a respected quality brand of canned tomatoes in the US and can be had at reasonable prices on sale, but is otherwise expensive in my book. I stock up at sales.

THICKNESS

Thickening may not be what you want to do really. It depends on what you want to do with it.

The more you cook a tomato sauce, the less tomato impact it tends to have. There are times this is what you want such as a bolognese with a more blended meaty flavor.

But for pizza or marinara, a fresher tomato taste is generally desirable.

Here are some ideas you may find useful.

Drain your tomatoes and reserve the liquid. Lightly crush the tomatoes and drain again adding that liquid to the reserved liquid.

Mill your tomatoes as normal. You could add in the amount of liquid you want for the sauce so you have the fresh taste of a less cooked sauce. Or you might try reducing the liquid and blending that into the solids. I'm not sure where the flavor profile would end up though.

Phil
post #5 of 26
When I simmer a sauce that I know will take a long time to thicken, I do it in the oven at about 250 degrees. Then I don't have to stir it as often to keep it from scorching.
post #6 of 26
I'm with old school on this one. Even my Marinara sauce gets a good 6 hours of simmer before I finish it. Slurry in tomato sauce is a travesty of justice. The other possible issue is that your sauce is not homogenous. If you have a lot of chunky solids and separate water, a couple of pulses with an immersion blender helps. Just don't kill it or you will have ketchup. Also, when I finish my sauce I mount it with a good bit of extra virgin olive oil. This helps to emulsify the sauce and give it body. It also gives Marinara sauce much needed fatty richness.
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post #7 of 26
Hi French Foodie,

There is good advise here already.

Here are my observations:
Choose quality tomatoes.
as already stated, simmer, simmer then simmer longer.

Regular home cornstarch will not hold too long in an acidic environment like tomato sauce.

Add lemon juice, the added acid will help the natural pectin to firm up. (citric acid is better if you can find some).

If all else fails, add tomato paste.

Luc H.
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post #8 of 26
Thread Starter 
Thank you all for the information. Here's a bit more info on what I used for the sauce.

The tomatoes were canned in juice. I'm not sure about the additivies, but they didn't taste salty to begin with. I don't have any cans lying around currently either. When I made the sauce I sent the whole tomatoes through the mill, and then combined all the ingredients (pulp and jucie from tomatoes, and extra juice from the can) to the pot. It seems that my main problem may be the adding of the juice from the can. That would make sense for the runniness of the sauce.

The flavor profile on the sauce tastes good, it's just really runny (due to the extra juice?) I'm not trying to get the sauce extremely thick, but less watery than it currently is. I'm trying to stay on the cheaper side, due to a college budget, but I also love good food.

Phatch: Do you find the flavor of sauce made with fresh tomatoes leaps and bounds above canned tomatoes? If so, is it best to just wait until the summer, go to some farmer's markets and make a huge batch then? My only concern is that fresh tomatoes can be pretty costly.
post #9 of 26
When I make sauce using canned tomatoes, I prefer the juice to the puree. I drain the liquid, hand crush the tomatoes, and simmer in a skillet or saute pan to allow for more rapid evaporation. After the sauce has drained, I add back some liquid and add a little red wine. I can make a nice thick sauce in about 1/2 - 45 minutes.

shel
post #10 of 26

Well, I was just here looking at what other people did to thicken tomato sauce. Here's exactly what I did:

 

1. I picked about 2 handfuls of cherry-tomato (i'm not positive what kind of tomato it is) sized tomatoes, washed them, and cut off the stems. 

2. I cooked (not really carmalize) diced onions of half a medium-large onion with good amount of olive oil. (BTW, its cooking the whole time while you're preparing the next item to add. no need to wait to turn on the fire.)

3. add tomatoes and 3-5 tablespoons of bought tomato sauce. (I don't know about the results if you skit it. It was just around the house and I said, "why not?" and it is organic and everything. trader joes

4. add rosemary or any herb bunch tied by string (my younger sister hates flecks of herbs in her food)

5. I added a small handful of chopped (or minced) cilantro. (i prefer the flavor to parsley)

(BTW, its cooking the whole time while you're preparing the next item to add. no need to wait to turn on the fire.)

6. After cooking awhile (10 min about) add squeeze of lemon juice and pinch of flour.

7. cook for 20-30 more min.

 

DONE WITH THE DELICIOUS SAUCE!

post #11 of 26

For thick sauces we use our own tomatoes. After processing we take the large 20qt pans and place them in the refrigerator overnight. This allows the pulp to separate from the water. Ladling off the pulp into another stainless pot we then begin the sauce. This makes a huge difference in thickness. No vast cooking times needed...saves energy. Cheap and Easy...smile.gif.

post #12 of 26

I'm going against the grain here.  When I make tomato sauce for spaghetti I cook it 30 - 40 minutes.  I finish cooking my pasta in it and the sauce gets absorbed into the pasta.  I detest a blob of sauce on top of a pile of spaghetti.

post #13 of 26

Either reduce liquid by cooking or add some tomato paste

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #14 of 26

FrenchFoodie says nothing about fresh tomatoes, so I'm rolling with my opinion in regards to canned.  Here's my process for a tomato sauce for the home.

 

Decent olive oil.  A bit more than you might think.

 

Slowly toast a garlic clove or two in the oil.  Add your whole tomatoes (I like Muir Glen or Alta-Cocina) with juice and gently crush with your hands.  Should be nicely smashed, but doesnt need to be perfect.  Salt and pepper.

 

Cook on medium heat until the consistency you want.  I personally dont like cooking low and slow because the sugars caramelize too much and I end up with a sweeter sauce.  I prefer a more acidic tomato base so, for me, quicker is better.  At the end I typically invert a small bunch of basil into the sauce and let it cool to room temp.  Remove the basil and youre good to go.  You can either smash up the garlic cloves with a fork or just remove them.

post #15 of 26

Just keep simmering longer.   Xanthan gum will do a good job of thickening sauces but use a very small amount.  A little goes a long way.

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You can't lay on the beach and drink rum all day unless you start in the morning

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post #16 of 26

A friend of mine, Italian, after many years cooking tomato sauce the classic way, is lately roasting the fresh tomatoes alla Alton Brown, with good success.

post #17 of 26

Question:  I like the idea of putting the 20 quart pot in the fridge overnight.  Only question is when you remove the pulp is it the pulp to make the sauce or what is left in the pot?

post #18 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by JayneSmith View Post

Question:  I like the idea of putting the 20 quart pot in the fridge overnight.  Only question is when you remove the pulp is it the pulp to make the sauce or what is left in the pot?

 

I score and blanch my tomatoes before pealing and I like to get as many seeds out as I can at that point.  I season them well and put them in the food proc to mince them down.  I don't own a food mill at this time so I have to do it old school which means more manual labor.  I mince my tomato through a strainer and push it with a spatula made for that purpose.    Before this new appliance age we did things the old school way. .  . by hand so don't be put off by what you don't have.  IMPROVISE - In fact - it goes like: Adapt, improvise, overcome. - best of luck love.

post #19 of 26

I wonder how thick you want it.  Do you want it to mound up if you pick up a spoonful?  then i think you can't really make a decent sauce that thick without sacrificing flavor.  If your sauce is truly watery, strain the tomatoes from the can before adding.  If you cook with chunks of carrot, celery and onion until these are soft, you can run through a food mill or use an immersion blender and it will be thicker. 

I would never cook a sauce more than an hour.  Most of my sauces are cooked on high heat for a very short time.  If, however, i'm making a ragu, then it has to simmer slowly.  A marinara, it seems to me, needs to be as close as possible to fresh tomato consistency

I've never cooked pasta in the sauce, and i doubt i would like it (i imagine it would get a more "creamy" consistency, and that's not how i like my sauce) but you might try that if the sauce seems watery.  Or half-cook it and then finish cooking in the more watery sauce. 

"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #20 of 26

AMAZING ANSWER!!  thanks you so much my friend.

post #21 of 26

Arrow Root

Egg Yolks

Roux

Tomato Paste

Throw it in a crock pot and let it sit over night and reduce

if you are not planning on freezing it make a cornstarch slurry

post #22 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by CulinaryGirl View Post
 

Arrow Root

Egg Yolks

Roux

Tomato Paste

Throw it in a crock pot and let it sit over night and reduce

if you are not planning on freezing it make a cornstarch slurry

 

You should take a screen shot of this and keep it so you can have a chuckle when you're 10 years in the industry.

post #23 of 26
OK. After that, this is gonna sound really Bohemian.

If I'm cooking from cans, which I have absolutely no problemmo doing, I take can by can in a very hot saute pan and reducing out the water from the juice. It actually takes only +/- 2-minutes per can, stirring the whole time. Really ... it's a lot quicker and easier than it sounds. Then dump it in a large pot to make the sauce. When you get halfway through, zap it with a boat-motor hand mixer until smooth and thick. Then I continue but I don't zap every can.

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"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

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post #24 of 26
If I'm out of time on the stove, and I have to tighten it up, I usually make an evoo rue. Stir in at or near boiling point until your sauce is where you want it.

I use #10 cans for the whole tomato and save the tops and bottoms. Put them on an outside grill, burn off the plastic.

Layer can tops underneath whatever long cooked sauce you're making. You'll never have to worry about burning the bottom again.



Jimbo
post #25 of 26

Perhaps you could use less of the juices, but keep them in a bowl so if the sauce starts to run a bit dry you could use them. It may also depend on how long you leave yours to simmer, mine takes at least an hour.

post #26 of 26

If you are using tinned/canned, I would go with San Marzano.  Turn the heat up high, then simmer.

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