How To Make Italian Restaurant–Quality Tomato Sauce

At a good Italian restaurant, it's all about the red sauce. It has such a richness and such balance of flavor that you have a hard time not pouring it over everything and dunking your bread in it. Have you tried making tomato sauce at home but had trouble getting similar results? Here are some tips to help you make restaurant-quality tomato sauce in your own kitchen.

1. Use good-quality tomatoes

Good food starts with good ingredients, and tomato sauce is no exception. If you use cheap tomatoes from the grocery store, your sauce will never have the bold flavor you are after. The best tomatoes to use are San Marzano tomatoes; this is a variety popular in Italy. However, any ripe plum tomato is a good choice. Stay away from beefsteak and cherry tomatoes, as neither have the right texture to make a good sauce.

2. Use fresh herbs.

Dried oregano and basil add okay flavor to your sauce, but if you really want the sauce to pop, you need to use fresh herbs. Add some at the beginning of cooking, and add more about 20 minutes from the end of cooking. This way, you get to enjoy the entire flavor profile of the herbs. Remember that you need to use more fresh herbs than dried herbs. If you are following a recipe and it calls for 2 tablespoons of dried oregano, you need to use about 1/2 cup of minced, fresh oregano.

3. Add a little sugar.

Tomatoes are acidic. To help balance out the acidity, you need to sweeten the sauce just slightly. You don't want to add so much sugar that the sauce actually tastes sweet, but just enough to balance out that acid. About a teaspoon of sugar per finished cup of sauce is a good guideline. White sugar is okay; brown is better.

4. Don't rush it.

Too many people only simmer their sauce for an hour or two because they are in a rush. But it takes hours for the flavors to fully develop. Make sauce on a day when you can afford to let it simmer for at least four hours. It should be thick and coat the back of a spoon by the time you are done.

Making restaurant-quality sauce at home is not as hard as you might imagine. With the tips above, you can enjoy a delicious topping for pasta, chicken, and more. Learn more about Italian dining from local restaurants.