When Rob and I traveled in Italy last summer (and boy, do I miss those hot Tuscan days as I sit here at my kitchen counter, shivering in my winter coat), our default lunch was pizza and a half-liter of the house wine at one of the many outdoor cafes in Lucca.
The pizza was always super simple: a thin, wood-grilled crust (though not the cracker-thin crust that seems to be in vogue at gourmet pizzerias here), a schmear of sauce, a few slices of mushrooms or mozzarella. In Italy, the pizzas we loved had barely a whisper of sauce—but the sauce was deeply, essentially, powerfully tomato-y. Not the watery, over-seasoned pizza sauce that the chains glop on the crust. Just tomato, cooked to a rich, velvety paste.
I wanted to figure out how to re-create that flavor-packed tomato sauce to use on homemade pizza. And then a recipe in Bon Appetit for butter-roasted tomato sauce sparked an idea. While the BA recipe—and it’s not available online, or I’d link to it—is packed with tons of garlic, anchovies and red pepper flakes (and is delicious on pasta), I wanted only tomato for my pizza sauce. So I borrowed the technique.
If you ordinarily think of pizza sauce as flecked with Italian seasonings, garlic and red pepper, I’ll suggest that you make this bare-bones version first. Then, if you want to add those flavorings, be my guest. But I’ve a hunch that this easy roasted tomato sauce, with its three ingredients, will make a pizza sauce minimalist of you, too.
all-purpose roasted tomato sauce recipe
1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Set a colander in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Dump the tomatoes into the colander and use your hands to break them into large chunks (careful: they'll squirt!). Place the tomato pieces and the strained liquid (leaving the seeds behind) in the baking dish. Sprinkle the tomatoes with sugar; scatter the butter over the top. Roast the tomatoes for 30 minutes, stirring once, and check for doneness. The tomatoes should be very soft and the liquid reduced by about half; if not, continue roasting for another 10 to 20 minutes. (Total roasting time depends on how juicy your tomatoes are.) Remove the pan from the oven and use a potato masher to mash the sauce into a coarse puree. If you used canned tomatoes without salt, taste the sauce and add salt if needed.