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Thread: Tomato Sauce too sweet

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Gaithersburg, MD

    Tomato Sauce too sweet

    I try to make my own tomato sauce (or gravy) for my DH but I have been having a hard time finding a recipe that is not too sweet. I have tried Alton Brown's, Ina's and the recipe CL index. I like the CL recipe here, but was wondering if the cooking mavens here could help me make it less sweet. Someone suggested carmelizing the onions and garlic first in balsamic vinegar. Would that make it more or less sweet?

    Canned tomatoes and other standard pantry ingredients team up for a quick tomato sauce that'll beat the jarred variety any day. Use it anywhere you might use store-bought, such as on pasta, in lasagna, or over polenta.

    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 1/2 cups chopped onion
    1 cup chopped green bell pepper
    1 teaspoon dried oregano
    4 garlic cloves, minced
    1/2 cup dry red wine
    1 teaspoon dried basil
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    2 (28-ounce) cans whole plum tomatoes, undrained and chopped
    1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
    2 bay leaves

    Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, oregano, and garlic; cook 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.
    Add wine and remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove bay leaves.

    Note: This sauce will freeze well for up to 3 months. Place it in an airtight container or zip-top plastic bag and freeze.

    8 cups (serving size: 1 cup)

    Nutritional Information
    CALORIES 93(23% from fat); FAT 2.4g (sat 0.4g,mono 1.4g,poly 0.5g); PROTEIN 3.3g; CHOLESTEROL 0.0mg; CALCIUM 77mg; SODIUM 487mg; FIBER 3.3g; IRON 2.4mg; CARBOHYDRATE 17.1g

    Cooking Light, APRIL 2000

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    Heading WEST!!
    I buy Muir Glen chunky tomato sauce and doctor as I need (spices/herbs for the specific dish).
    They add NO sugar. LOVE IT.
    I've tried store bought stuff and if it doesn't have high fructose corn syrup, they still use a lot of sugar (for my taste).
    Thoreau said, 'A man is rich in proportion to the things he can leave alone.'

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    The Great White North
    Two things to reduce the sweetness come to mind - what I usually do is add some red wine vinegar, to taste, maybe 2 to 3 Tbs to the recipe you're making. You can use other vinegars as you like - white wine, regular, balsamic (though I'd use a cheap, vinegary balsamic, not a sweet old one), even lemon juice if that appeals to you. The other thing that I've tried is to add some cinnamon, to taste, maybe 1/4 to 1/2 tsp; some people love it in their sauce (I find it interesting).
    btw Caramelizing the onions makes them sweeter, imo. It's the vinegar that will do the trick.
    Cheers! Andy

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    NashVegas, baby!
    You've made the CL recipe and found it too sweet? Or you're anticipating that it will be too sweet?

    In any case, there is no added sugar, so any sweetness you'd taste would be from the vegetables and perhaps the wine. Onions, tomatoes, and to some degree bell peppers have a natural sweetness to them, and the longer they cook, the sweeter they get. I agree that caramelizing the onions will definitely make them more sweet, not less. That's what "caramelizing" is -- bringing out and intensifying the sugars.

    If you want to counteract the natural sweetness of the recipe ... Make sure that you have a really dry, astringent wine. I agree that adding some vinegar will balance the sweetness, but then vinegar can really ruin the taste of wine. Maybe leaving out the wine and just using some water in its place would help, and you could add vinegar without causing problems. I would not use balsamic, because of all the vinegars, it's the sweetest. In fact, the supermarket-variety balsamic isn't really balsamic, and has sugar and/or caramel added to give it the color and flavor real balsamic has.

  5. #5
    Another thing you could try is using canned diced tomatoes instead of whole plum tomatoes. The tomatoes for the canned diced are apparently picked a bit less ripe so they will hold their shape better during processing, and are consequently less sweet. I've noticed a difference in acidity when I use canned diced tomatoes instead of canned whole or crushed in recipes I make often.

  6. #6
    Well, you definitely wouldn't like my recipe for marinara. I love a sweet marinara, so this will go against my instincts, but.............

    I don't see anything in the recipe above that would make it sweet. Except possibly the tomato paste. I hesitate to tell you to leave that out because it helps to thicken the sauce and give it depth, but it will add to the sweetness of the sauce - I put 2 6-ounce cans in my sauce.

    I would definitely NOT recommend caramelizing the onions - as others have said, caramelizing them makes them sweet. That's actually what I do to the onions in my own recipe because I think it creates and wonderful depth of flavor and takes away all the of the harshness that I think regular onions tend to add to a sauce.

    If the sauce above is too sweet for you, I'd suggest adding more savory ingredients like more dried herbs to help round out the flavors - maybe add a teaspoon of thyme. You could also up the onion and or garlic to add more savory flavors.

    Adding a bit of vinegar - balsamic is nice in marinara - might also help. Or maybe up the red wine - cabernet is my favorite for marinara, but just about any red wine will do.

    Good luck. Let us know how you make out.
    Last edited by lindrusso; 08-26-2007 at 08:44 AM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Kenmore NY, near Buffalo
    LINDRUSSO SPEAKS TRUE-- as always! you mihgt try a different paste, such as a pesto-flavored one, or try using a drier wine, maybe Valpolicella. i wouldn't add cinnamon, it will be sweeter-- i add cinnamon to mine sometimes, but in general i like an herby, unsweet sauce too. using fresh chopped oregano and parsley might help as well. or add a few fresh tomatillos-- they have a natural tartness that might offset the sweetness of the other 'matoes you use.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Gaithersburg, MD
    Hi Guys-
    So far so good. I had made the sauce a week ago and it was too sweet right out of the pot, then got sweeter as the extra sat in jars waiting to be used. I liked the consistency and the many veggies in the sauce, but as I said- too sweet. So I took the advice of the helpful board chefs , doubled the recipe and the result was much improved. I used only one can of tomato paste instead of two, I switched one of the large cans of plum tomatos to two cans of diced, I used a very dry red and sauteed the onions and garlic in balsamic vinegar. I used less fresh herbs instead of so much of the dried. I also used an immersion blender to break up the savory "chunks" of veggies. The end result was very nice and it is now freezing in bags waiting for use some busy worknight. I love having meals ready to go. It is as comforting to me as money in the bank. Thanks board!

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