It is quite strange to think that when tomatoes were first introduced into Italy during the sixteenth century, the Italians thought that they were poisonous and would not eat them. Nowadays, almost every Italian dish contains tomatoes in some shape or form and Italian cuisine would not be quite the same without them.
A well-made fresh tomato sauce is the basis for a number of popular Italian sauces, such as the hot and spicy "Arrabiata" sauce made from tomatoes and chillies, Puttanesca (tomato, olives and anchovies), "Marinara", a herb and tomato sauce and "Napolitana", which is a simple sauce containing tomatoes, onion, garlic and fresh herbs.
Tomato sauce made to accompany pasta can be prepared in a number of ways. There are quick methods, whereby a delicious and rich tomato sauce can be conjured up within 20 minutes, and there are those methods that can take several hours to prepare.
If you have the time, it is best to use fresh tomatoes, especially if they are in season.
The skin from the tomatoes should be peeled and the tomatoes should also be de-seeded.
In order to peel the fresh tomatoes, the easiest way is to place them in a pan of boiling water until the skin becomes soft. This should take between 15 - 30 seconds. Then, plunge them into ice-cold water so that the cooking process is halted. Drain the tomatoes and then start to peel them with a knife. The skin should come away fairly easily.
The seeds can be removed from the tomatoes by passing the tomatoes through a sieve. This is definitely worth doing, as the sauce will taste less bitter without the seeds.
When tomatoes are in season during the summer, choose the big, ripe, fleshy ones, as they will give the best flavour to your sauce. At other times of the year, plum tomatoes (Roma) or tinned whole tomatoes are the next best thing.
Most recipes for a good tomato sauce contain basic ingredients such as fresh herbs, garlic, onion and olive oil. However, you can choose a recipe that is as simple as you like or one that has additional ingredients to liven it up a bit.
Other ingredients that you may find in a tomato sauce recipe are sugar, red wine, chicken stock, green pepper or parmesan cheese, to name a few.
Below are several recipes for tomato sauce, ranging from the very basic to the somewhat more elaborate.