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Butter to reduce acidity of tomato sauce?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
I have already searched the forums for this topic and, although it was breifly addressed, I didnt quite get the answer for which I was hoping.

FoodNetwork.com recipe for lasagne, chef Giada

She claims that if the sauce is too acidic butter can be added 1 tbs at a time to "round out the flavors".

After reading that, I looked through my On Food and Cooking reference and didnt see anything in the vegetable or dairy chapters that addressed this. Internet searches with terms "butter, acidity, tomato sauce" didn't reveal any solid answers either.

The statement that flavors would be "rounded out" doesnt necessarily imply that the acidity would be reduced (from a pH perspective) perhaps she only means to mask the acidity with butter similiar to how some recipies call for sugar for the same effect. Any thoughts on this? Any chemist cooks?

Secondly, this particular recipe called to mix a bechemel with her tomato sauce. Wouldnt any effect that was attempting to be provided by adding tabs of butter be provided in adding the bechemel itself making the initial butter unnecessary?

(Incedentally, and slightly off topic, is there a name to differentiate tomato sauce made solely from tomatos and sauce made from tomatos and cream?)

Thanks
randy


Edit: I found a pH scale and see that milk is still slightly acidic (as compared to water), whcih doesn't coincide with the theory that its negating a higher pH factor of the tomato but since it is less acidic, perhaps it is diluting it.
post #2 of 16
Giada is not a good cook, food chemist or teacher. Sorry, but there you go.

You're right about butter in those proportions not seriously affecting the pH.

Richness, and butter is one of the best providers, has long been used to counter the astringent mouth feel which acidity engenders. Sauces are frequently finished with butter to add lip and mouth feel, as well as mellow (round out) the flavors. That is, the fat effects the taste buds by insulating them slightly. So, in that sense, the suggestion is not wildly ridiculous. Maybe it's an old family trick (hers not mine), but it's not something you see a lot of in Italian cooking.

In my repertoire (which is pretty big, and includes a lot of "classic" European sauces) the only set of tomato based sauces for which I use butter are American barbecue sauces.

As you pointed out, bechamel will do as good a job or better.

Hope this helps,
BDL

PS. The barbecue sauce thing got me thinking about smoking a chicken for dinner tonight.
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post #3 of 16
That can be quite messy if the feathers are still attached. I would switch to cigars pronto.

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post #4 of 16
Cooks Illustrated did a four-pager on this a couple of months ago- lasagna made with bechamel vs. straight tomato sauce.
post #5 of 16
I watch her show as often as I can.
I just realized it was a cooking show.
;)
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post #6 of 16
I thought that was the main reason for adding a small amount of sugar to a tomato sauce. Years ago I worked at a pizza place and when we made the pizza sauce or marinara we always added sugar.

Butter will help I bit a believe but I think a small amount of sugar is more standard in my experience.
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post #7 of 16
I agree with Nicko. Unless I'm makiing a fresh tomato salad, and I'm actually cooking with tomatoes, A pinch or two of sugar goes in until it doesn't taste acidic, and i always check at the end.

Adding butter to it would be like having a glass of full cream milk before you go out for a night on the town (highly recommended by the way, in my experience :) ) ...adds a lining to your tongue, palate and stomach and you don't notice the acidity as much.

DC
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post #8 of 16
Although it is not seen frequently in Italian (as a Country) cooking was in fact very prevalent in immigrant Italian cooking and used frequently , as bdl explains, in sauces. As it was explained to me oh so long ago by my grandmother..... Butter was not seen often in Southern regions of Italy so a sweetener like honey was used to reduce acidity. When they arrived here, butter was more common and actually encouraged by the government to be used by the arriving immigrants. Same with meats but that's a different topic.

Anyhow, it was later dropped in my families cooking because of cost and now health concerns, and we primarily use sugar to do the same thing.

As far as cream goes, IMHPO, when you add it to a sauce, you change the properties of that sauce and end up with something that is completely different than just a normal marinara or tomato sauce. It is done in certain dishes (like bolognese) but it is a characteristic of those dishes and is not added to specifically remove acidity as the butter or sugar would.
post #9 of 16
Hmm... maybe it's the fat. Just like a vinaigrette?
post #10 of 16
Bolognese traditionally has some cream in the recipe. For years I made my "spaghetti sauce" using sugar for the acidity. As years went by, I started using a little brown sugar instead of white as it seemed richer. My son, who is a chef, informed me that my "sauce" was really a Bolognese, and suggested I add a little cream to it. I was leary, but tried it and it really did help with the acidity along with the small amount of sugar. I can't imagine using butter though.

My son used my recipe for "family meal" one day when he was working in San Francisco . They loved it and added it to the menu for a period of time. LOL
post #11 of 16

Add a gastrique. (You just caramelize a small amount of sugar, then thin or deglaze with vinegar.) Add to Tomato sauce and it will reduce the acidity.

 

I know this is old post but posting this for any new readers that come along. Have a good one!

post #12 of 16

Hi old school, Have  you ever heard of adding a pinch of baking soda to kill acidity ?? I have done it with success many times.

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post #13 of 16
I recently made a tomato sauce using a recipe from Marcella Hazan

28 oz can of tomatoes (San Marzano)broken up
5 Tbs of butter
1 onion cut in half
Salt to taste

Simmer 45 min, discard onion

Was pretty tasty

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post #14 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Koukouvagia View Post

That can be quite messy if the feathers are still attached. I would switch to cigars pronto.


smile.gif Quick wit like this should not have gone unnoticed!

 

I just wanted to add my two cents. 

 

Butter is certainly used in italy, though generally not as much in the south.  Though people i know in Rome, Romans (that is, not immigrants), do make sauce with butter sometimes. 

My mother used to make it half oil and half butter - she was from tuscany.

In the introduction to the English edition to Ada Boni's Talismano della Felicita', called The Talisman Italian Cookbook, Mario Pei, a linguist, says that italian cuisine uses butter in the north, oil in the south and butter and oil mixed in the center, particularly in Tuscany.  My mother was happy to read that because it coincided with her own experience and she became a big proponent of ada boni's cookbook!. 

 

I think the words "acid" and "acidity" are used, in common, non-chemical language, to mean "sour" and "sourness".

 

Sourness is a subjective experience, how we perceive taste; acidity is a chemical one.  I remember in the old days of Yugoslavia, traveling through there, the word they had for mineral water was, translated, "sour water" when in fact it's a little alcaline, but it tastes sour. Like baking soda. 

 

So tell me if this makes sense:

 

Baking soda will neutralize the acidity. 

Sugar will eliminate the sourness

and butter will make it creamy so you don;t notice. 

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post #15 of 16

Sounds good to me.

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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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 #16 of 16

You may want to consider this site as well.

 

http://www.ehow.com/how_5752105_make-tomato-dish-less-acidic.html

 

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