Thursday, April 7, 2011

Kathleen's Pasta

The other weekend I made some pasta sauce with canned tomatoes and vegetable stock, and a bit of spices and onion, in order to eliminate sauce-related points from my pasta meals. This was the first meal I had with that sauce.

With tortellini, the sauce is quite good, because the cheesy stuff inside the pasta is enough to mask any undesirable flavors. But with regular pasta, it's not very tasty. I've never liked that tinny taste that comes with tomato sauce. When I make chili, I mask it with lots of chili powder, but I'm not sure how to get rid of it in pasta sauce.


  1. The solution to this is sugar. Just a pinch! It's because of acidic stuff in the tomatoes, and if you add sugar it goes away magichemically. which is to say, through the magic of chemistry. alternatively, you can use fresh tomatoes.

  2. Here's a primer on the different sorts of canned tomatoes, from Serious Eats:

    "First things first: I knew that I wanted to use canned tomatoes, since they are much more consistent year round (I shudder at the thought of making a fresh tomato sauce out of bland winter tomatoes). But which tomatoes should I use?

    * Whole Peeled Tomatoes are the least processed offering. Consisting of whole tomatoes that are peeled (either by steaming or being treated with lye), then packed either in tomato puree, or in tomato juice. Those packed in juice are less processed, and therefore more versatile (tomatoes packed in puree will always have a "cooked" flavor, even if you use them straight out of the can).
    * Diced Tomatoes are whole peeled tomatoes that have been machine-diced, then again, packed in juice or puree. The main difference here is that frequently, diced tomatoes are treated with calcium chloride, a firming agent which helps the dice keep their shape in the can. The problem is, calcium chloride makes the tomatoes too firm. They don't break down properly when cooking. Look for brands with no calcium chloride (whole canned tomatoes occasionally also contain this firming agent, but its effects are not as strong on whole tomatoes).
    * Crushed Tomatoes can vary wildly from brand to brand. There are actually no controls on the labeling of crushed tomatoes, so one brands "crushed" may be a chunky mash, while another's could be a nearly smooth puree. Because of this, it's generally better to avoid crushed products, opting instead to crush your own whole tomatoes.
    * Tomato Puree is a cooked and strained tomato product. It makes a good shortcut for quick cooking sauces, but your sauce will lack the complexity you get from slowly reducing a less processed tomato product. Leave the puree on the shelf.
    * Tomato Paste is concentrated tomato juice. After cooking fresh tomatoes, all of the larger solids are strained out, then the resulting juice is slowly cooked down to a moisture content of 76% or less. It's great for adding a strong umami backbone to stews and braises.