Late summer, here in Montréal, our markets, and backyard and community gardens alike, are overflowing with tomatoes; all ripening at once that it’s nearly impossible to keep up with nature by merely consuming them at the usual weekly consumption rate. They are sold dirt cheap, by the bushels, to anyone who is brave enough to venture into a little forward-thinking sauce-making. I may not always be so forward-thinking but I’m a sucker for cheap so this is the time of year when I turn a fairly inexpensive bushel of tomatoes into a healthy supply of pizza sauce.Let me say this in the most unboastful way possible, but apparently, I make the best pizza. Well, at least that’s what’s said among my children’s friends who frequent our home and often get served my pizza. I’m not too picky, I’ll take a compliment when I get one.I do have a few tricks. Before cooking the tomatoes, I salt them and squeeze them to remove as much water as possible… this ensures a thick sauce, not a thin and runny one. The most wonderful part of this though is that in the process of making the sauce… you get some tomato juice. Just add some seasoning and enjoy. At the same time, keep in mind though that this certainly is not a recipe to make when tomatoes are out of season, jet-lagged and crazy expensive!Here are all the tomatoes with the water removed ready for sauce-making.I think what makes this sauce so great is the use of Greek oregano. If you have never tried it, it’s time. I also use fennel seeds. It may seem unusual but don’t be tempted to leave it out.Finally, down below, I’ve also included the recipe for my pizza dough…. because what’s one without the other, eh?
(yields 6-8 jars filled with approximately 200 mL of sauce …. plus an added bonus of about 2 cups of tomato juice! You can easily double or triple the recipe.)
- 2 kg Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
- 3 1/2 tsp salt, divided
- 50 g garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 2 tbsp dried Greek oregano (from Greece!)
- 4 tsp whole fennel seeds
- 1 tsp whole black pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp turmeric powder (completely optional, I add it only for the health benefit only, it doesn’t add to the flavour or alter the colour much either)
- 1/2 tsp red chili powder
- Place the chopped tomatoes in a large strainer placed over a large bowl or pot. (I use a pasta pot with a strainer insert.)
- Sprinkle 2 tsp of salt over the tomatoes and gently stir a little.
- Cover the strainer and allow to sit for 2-4 hours or overnight in the fridge. This process helps pull out a lot of the water in the tomatoes.*
- When you are ready to make the sauce, press down on the tomatoes with the bottom of an empty glass and squeeze out as much water as you can. You should have about 2 cups of water (aka tomato juice) collected… enjoy!
- Put the tomatoes and the garlic in a large saucepan, cover and cook on low-medium heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- During this time, gather the spices. Grind the black pepper and fennel seeds to a fine powder using a spice grinder (or coffee grinder). Add them to the pot of tomatoes, along with the oregano, turmeric, chili powder and remaining salt.
- After the 30 minutes, the tomatoes should be completely soft (no longer retaining their shape) and you should be able to mash the garlic with the back of a spoon.
- Uncover and continue to cook on low heat for 30-60 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want to cook until most of the water has evaporated. A good check is when there is hardly a layer of water that accumulates at the top when left alone for a bit.
- Allow to cool.
- Using an immersion blender, blend the tomato mixture to get the perfect pizza sauce.
- You may can it as per canning instructions or simply freeze the portions. I fill 250 mL capacity jars with 200 mL of sauce. One jar is sufficient for the pizza dough recipe below.
* Using salt to get excess water out from vegetables is a wonderful little trick. I grew up watching my parents use this trick for making raita and I now use it for making tzatziki. It also works wonders for tomatoes whether you are making sauce or a salad with them (of course, for a salad, just let the salt do the trick, you should not squish them!)
(yields 6 pizza bases, 8-9 inches in diameter)
- 280 g (about 2 cups) white whole wheat flour
- 140 g (about 1 cup) whole spelt flour (or replace with white whole wheat flour, brown whole wheat flour, or rye flour)
- 3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp dry yeast (for instant yeast, see below)*
- 2 tsp unrefined sugar, honey or maple syrup
- Add yeast and sugar to 237 g (1 cup) warm water and allow to proof. If using honey or maple syrup, stir into water first until dissolved.
- In the meantime, combine flours and salt in a dough bowl. Using your hand, mix in oil.
- Add the yeast mixture to the flour and again using your hand, mix to form the dough. You will need to add about 60-80 g (about 1/4 cup) of additional water (most likely not if using rye flour in the mix) to get a soft, un-sticky dough. Add it gradually as required. If the dough feels too sticky, putting oil on your hands will help. If it is really too sticky, just add additional flour. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes.
- Allow the dough to rise in a greased bowl (covered with a tea towel) for at least 2 hours in a warmed oven or a sunny spot.
- Once the dough has risen to about double the size, push down and knead for a few minutes. Divide the dough into 6 equal balls.
- On a floured surface, roll out each ball. Be careful when rolling so that no folds occur. Each pizza base should be about 8-9 inches (20-23 cm) in diameter. Place on greased baking sheets. (I roll each dough ball out slightly oval so that I can fit two pizza bases per baking sheet.) Once you have all of the dough rolled out, cover the baking sheets with clean tea towels and allow the pizza bases to rise for about one hour. They will only slightly rise.
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. I place all three (each having two pizza bases) and use the convection bake/multi rack feature of my oven.
- Remove the sheets from the oven. If the pizzas bases bubbled up, simply deflate the bubble by pricking with a fork. Top the pizza bases with sauce (200 mL of sauce is sufficient for the 6 pizzas) and toppings of your choice.
- Place the pizzas in the oven again and continue to bake until cheese/toppings are as your preference (about 15-20 minutes more).
*if using instant yeast: combine flours and 2 tsp instant yeast, let sit 30 seconds, mix in sugar and salt, then oil, add about 300-320 g warm water and make the dough, knead for 5 minutes and continue with instructions 4-10 above.