While most variations of tomato sauce are ascribed to Italian cuisine, the French have their own classic tomato sauce, Sauce Tomat.
The sauce starts with lightly browning diced salt-cured pork, followed by softening the mirepoix (finely chopped onions, carrots, and celery) for a few minutes. Add garlic, a bay leaf, a few sprigs of thyme, whole tomatoes crushed in a bowl, and stock. Cover the pot and pop it in the oven for a slow simmer.
All that deliciousness comes with a time commitment. The sauce needs to simmer for a couple of hours to build and concentrate all of those flavors, but that can be done handily in the oven, allowing you to use your time however you please instead of standing over the stove.
It is one of the five French “mother” sauces, and if you’ve never made it, it offers a very pleasant surprise with its subtle meaty undertones and creamy texture. It is nothing like chunky marinara sauce; it's creamy and tastes deeply of tomatoes, almost like the best tomato soup you ever ate. I confess that after tasting a spoonful or two of the sauce, I just wanted to drink it(!). It is that delicious.
How this Recipe is Different from the Classic
In the old-school version, a roux of butter and flour would thicken the sauce, but modern chefs generally skip that step, which is what I also did.
I also pureed it in a blender rather than straining it in the traditional way. It is much easier, and it has the advantage of capturing all the flavors of the vegetables and pork while thickening the sauce to a smooth and luscious consistency.
Tips for Making Sauce Tomat
Sauce tomat is easy to pull off if you are able to spare the time, which is mostly hands-off.
If you would like to make the sauce vegetarian, leave out the salt pork and meat stock, and replace them with 2 to 3 tablespoons butter or olive oil and vegetable stock.
Be careful when blending the sauce, as hot sauces expand and releases a lot of steam. To address the expansion, only fill the blender to 1/3 of its capacity, open the top vent, and hold a clean folded dish towel over the opening. Start the blender on low speed and gradually increase the speed as you blend it. Blend the sauce this way in batches.
How to Use Sauce Tomat
As I mentioned above, I just wanted to drink the sauce when I first made it. Setting that option aside, you can use it in any recipe that requires a base of tomato sauce. Here are a few ideas:
- I would welcome turning it into a soup by thinning it with stock, water, or heavy cream. (The soup will curdle if you use half and half or milk.)
- Sauce for pasta
- Sauce for fish or chicken
- Spanish sauce with smoked paprika
- Creole Sauce (add sautéed finely diced celery, carrots, and green peppers, hot sauce, and Worcestershire
- Vodka Sauce (add heavy cream and vodka)
How to Store Sauce Tomat
The sauce will keep in the fridge for 3 to 4 days or can be frozen for up to 6 months.
More Mother Sauce Recipes for You!
Classic Sauce Tomat (French Tomato Sauce)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 ounces salt-cured pork, diced small
- 1 cup carrots, diced
- 1 cup onions, diced
- 1 cup celery, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, crushed in a bowl
- 1 quart veal or chicken stock
Preheat the oven to 325°F
Cook the salt-cured pork:
In a Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot with a lid over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the salt-cured pork and cook, stirring, until the fat melts and the pork lightly browns, 5 to 7 minutes.
Cook the mirepoix:
Add the carrots, onions, and celery to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften and turn golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, thyme, and bay leaf.
Add the tomatoes and stock and transfer to the oven:
Stir the tomatoes and stock into the pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cover the pot and transfer it to the preheated oven.
Simmer in the oven for 1 hour. Remove and set the lid slightly askew, leaving a 1/4 inch gap between the lid and the pot on one side. Return to the oven for another hour. (Total time in the oven is 2 hours.) Remove from the oven, remove the lid, and cool for 15 minutes, or until the sauce is no longer boiling hot.
Discard thyme and bay leaf:
Discard the thyme and bay leaf from the sauce.
Puree the sauce:
You’ll have to puree the sauce in batches.
Fill the blender to 1/3 of its capacity, open the top vent, and hold a clean folded dish towel over the opening. Start the blender on low speed and gradually increase the speed as you blend it. Blend until smooth. Repeat until all the sauce is pureed.
Store or use the sauce:
Transfer pureed sauce to airtight containers and store in the fridge for up to 4 days, or place in the freezer for up to 6 months. Use in any recipe that requires a tomato base.
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