Now that we've posted two easy to make pizza dough recipes, let's continue to build our repertoire of fundamental pizza components. During the next few months we'll post not only these really basic recipes, the essential culinary tool box, so to speak, but also more elaborate recipes and finished dishes, as well as videos with techniques for mixing and shaping dough and such. But for now, let's focus on a great, all purpose red pizza sauce--part of the holy trinity of pizza (you know--dough, sauce, and cheese).
This one is my favorite, go-to sauce when making pizzas at home regardless of the type of dough. I published it originally in American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza, and it has served me well for at least the past ten years. I prefer using crushed or ground tomatoes instead of tomato puree or tomato sauce because I like the texture of the tomato particulates and solids. However, the sauce can also be made with smooth tomato sauce or puree.
As for which brand, well this is very controversial discussion and one that I tread very carefully. Many people absolutely insist on using tomatoes only from San Marzano--not just San Marzano tomatoes,which are a particular type of plum tomato that can be grown anywhere, but tomatoes
actually grown in San Marzano, Italy, just outside of Naples in the volcanic soil below Mt. Vesuvius. I love these tomatoes, who wouldn't? They're light and bright and simply wonderful. But there are some equally awesome plum tomatoes grown in the USA, mostly in the Central Valley of California (on the other hand, Jersey Tomatoes, which are legendary in their own right, are mainly best used as an eating tomato, not for sauce; and other tomatoes, such as heirloom types, are especially good as a sliced topping ingredient but are too juicy and thin to use for sauce). So, in answer to this eternal question I can only give the eternal, diplomatic answer: use the brand you love (and if you can't use the brand you love, love the brand you use). One caveat though: some brands are more salty than others, so adjust the added salt according to your taste. By the way, you can use already crushed or ground tomatoes or buy canned whole tomatoes and "ground" them into a nice, pebbly sauce in a food processor--I do it all the time.
Makes Enough for 4 to 6 Pizzas
1 can (28 ounces) crushed or ground tomatoes (see comments above)
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste, start with ½ teaspoon and then adjust as needed)
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil (optional) (or 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil)
1 teaspoon dried oregano (optional) (or 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano)
1 tablespoon granulated garlic powder (sandy, not the fine powder)
(or 5 cloves of fresh garlic, minced or crushed)
1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, or lemon juice, or a combination of both (optional--some brands are more acidic than others, but I find that most benefit from at least 1 tablespoon)
Stir all the ingredients together, adding the salt gradually, to taste. (The basil and oregano are optional. I use both because I find most of my friends associate the flavors with childhood memories, but in an authentic Napoletana marinara pizza, made with true San Marzano sauce, you would use only oregano, and not in the sauce but as a garnish after the bake. The flavors of the herbs and garlic will intensify when the pizza is baked, so resist the urge to increase the amount). Do not cook this sauce--the tomatoes are already cooked when they go in the can and they will cook again on the pizza (of course, if using this over spaghetti or other pasta, in other words, if it won't be cooked again in the oven, then you can heat it up in a pan). This sauce will keep for 1 week in the refrigerator.