The Bright, Fresh Tomato Sauce They Teach You First in Culinary School

August 26, 2016

The first time I ever saw fresh tomatoes get turned into tomato sauce, it was a revelation. I was a teenager, and I stared at the fresh sauce as if I had lived in the desert my entire life and was seeing snow for the first time. The fresh sauce was vibrant, delicate, and light pink in color. It expressed the gentle sweetness and thirst-quenching nature of a ripe tomato.

The fresh tomato sauce gave me cognitive dissonance: I had previously known tomato sauce to be dark red, thick, found in jars, and purchased in stores. In my mind, the link between fresh tomatoes and jarred tomato sauce was opaque and purely theoretical. I had always just assumed that tomato sauce came from some unknowable combination of tomatoes, heavy industry, and magic.

But the most exciting thing about fresh homemade tomato sauce is how easy it is to make. This sauce is one of the first things they teach you to make in culinary school (where they call it tomato concassé): It's empowering to break down full, raw ingredients like tomatoes, and you realize how simple and fun it is to transform them into sauce—something you may have once thought to be only attainable in jars at the grocery store. Simply score the tomatoes with a sharp knife, blanch them for about a minute in simmering water, and chill them in cold water to stop the cooking. At this point, you can easily peel the skin off and and discard it then dice the flesh of the tomato and cook it briefly in a saute pan to make the sauce.

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If you have the time, discard not just the tomato skins but the seeds as well before you make the sauce. Set a fine mesh strainer over a mixing bowl, cut your tomato into quarters or eighths, and you can discard the seeds while simultaneously collecting the flavorful juice from the tomato. This liquid, known in professional kitchens as “tomato water,” is tremendously flavorful. If you add the tomato water and some butter to your saute pan with the diced tomato, your fresh sauce will taste rich and pure, like the essence of summer tomato season.

Tell us about something that blew your mind the first time you cooked it in the comments below.

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Josh Cohen

Written by: Josh Cohen

Born and raised in Brooklyn, I’m perpetually inspired by the diversity of foods that exist in this city. I love shopping at the farmer’s market, making ingredients taste like the best versions of themselves, and rolling fresh pasta. I learned how to make fresh pasta in Italy, where I spent the first 6 months of my career as a chef. I've been cooking professionally in New York City since 2010.


Smaug August 27, 2016
Two things I wonder about- 1)why do people score tomatoes before boiling them?- it's by no means necessary to remove the skin...2)why not just use a food mill?
Chase August 27, 2016
1) It makes it easier to peel
2)You can tell
Smaug August 27, 2016
1)How is it easier? You just pull them off either way. You may have to core either way. The only difference is it adds an operation.
2)What's wrong with that? It will be a more even texture and probably taste less cooked, so yes, you can tell.
702551 August 27, 2016
1) You are right.
2) Not everyone has a food mill.
Smaug August 28, 2016
Something in that, though I should think a culinary school could dredge one up. I do, in principle, favor learning how to do everything with as little equipment as possible just as a learning experience.
David B. August 26, 2016
I enjoyed thin black Japanese eggplant, sauteed in olive oil, salt, pepper, some green spices, like oregano, maybe a little chicken broth as well, but I don't know how to make it without the chopped up rounds of eggplant continually absorbing how ver much olice oil I keep adding.
Chris J. August 26, 2016
i had thought, about easiness of make your own tomato sauce,

i see to be following you are read of blog posts,

that's the reason i stopped by,

hugs chris