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By James Peterson

Published 1991

There are many types of basic tomato sauces. Some are uncooked, lumpy mixtures of raw tomatoes, while others are delicate, smooth purées or long-cooked versions flavored with meats, aromatic vegetables, and herbs. The best way to approach a tomato sauce depends on the time of year and the type and quality of tomatoes that are available. One axiom of cooking might be: The better the ingredients, the less treatment they require. This is especially true when preparing tomato sauce.
The best tomatoes for sauces are usually the small, pear-shaped plum tomatoes, but more important than the type are ripeness and gardening methods. Most tomatoes on the market are picked—and used—before they are ripe. Tomatoes are best used when they are so ripe that they seem ready to burst out of their skin and so soft that they must be handled very carefully (a condition that is not optimum for mass shipping to the nation’s supermarkets). Most tomatoes are also overwatered before they are picked. The water dilutes their flavor and must be eliminated later.
Most tomato sauces are spoiled by overcooking and by including too many ingredients, so that the natural delicacy of the tomato is lost—although admittedly a tomato sauce made with canned tomatoes or pale winter fresh tomatoes will need some reinforcement.

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