Which side are you on when it comes to the great tomato debate? Are they a fruit or a vegetable? Whatever you regard them as it all comes down to them being remarkably versatile in the kitchen.
Any Pasta Recipe
Aside from chopping up tomatoes and adding them to your salads and sandwiches, they are an absolute essential for pasta lovers in the form of tomato sauce.
Many traditional Italian recipes all begin with a delicious marinara sauce. Combine ground beef and olive oil in a skillet, adding additional garlic, chopped pepper, and onion if you desire, and you have a fantastic bolognese sauce to pour over your spaghetti or to preserve in a jar for future use. Don't forget to add some grated parmesan and chopped parsley to top it off!
For Veggie Lovers
Luckily vegetables can substitute many forms of pasta these days. Zucchini in the form of lasagna noodles. Eggplant in parmigiana dishes. Squash and even beets masquerading as spaghetti. These veggies can easily and deliciously partner well with a tomato sauce.
Your Own Spin
For variety's sake, you can quickly jazz up your fresh tomato sauce in many ways. By adding heavy cream you can turn it into a rosé sauce which is absolutely delicious with gnocchi, another form of pasta that is made from potatoes. Basil, chilli flakes, hot sauce, bacon, cheese and basically any other vegetables can be used to tweak the flavour of your tomato sauce and, therefore, turn it into an entirely different tasting pasta dish. The possibilities really are endless.
Note: If you’re vegan, you can easily switch out the bacon and cheese for tofu or tempeh bacon and vegan cheese. The end result is just as delicious!
Not only will you have fun exploring the different combinations, but your friends and family will also be impressed by your culinary skills. And, they never have to find out if you got it from a jar or spent hours in the kitchen.
Leftover Pasta Sauce
But as much as we'd all love to, we can't indulge in a pasta dish every day. After all, variety is the spice of life. So what else can you do with that leftover pasta sauce once you've opened the jar? In Tuscany, the locals simmer their tomato sauce, leftover or fresh, followed by adding some cooked white beans to the pan for a dinner that is high in both protein and flavour. Although white beans are traditional, there's really no rule to say you can't use pinto, black beans, red beans, or whatever you have laying around. This is an excellent way to use up leftovers from other recipes.
When you find yourself with some extra pasta sauce on hand, it can be added to a grilled cheese sandwich simply by spreading a thin layer on one inside of the bread. Add your favourite cheese, and butter both the outsides before popping it into a hot pan. Flip after a minute or two until both sides of the grilled cheese are golden and toasty. You could also use a sandwich maker or panini press if you have one. Voila! A comforting dish for those colder months, because sometimes packing tomato soup for lunch isn't always practical, and now your leftover sauce won't go to waste.
Again, if you’re vegan, who doesn’t love a vegan grilled cheese sandwich? Vegan cheddar cheese or even vegan cheese sauce works perfectly.
For the Whole Family
Another great use for leftover pasta sauce is to use it as a base for a delicious and kid-pleasing pizza. Throw on whatever toppings your family likes. Onion, red pepper flakes, olives, goat cheese (or vegan mozzarella), spinach, chopped bell peppers, bacon (or tempeh), or any other kind of meat are all delicious options you can't go wrong with. Can't forget about the controversial pineapple, either. The sky really is the limit in terms of how many things you can pile onto your pizza! Don't forget to top with one cup (or even two cups - we're not judging) of mozzarella before you cook it in the oven to really up the gooey factor.
Tomato Sauce: A Versatile Sauce That We All Love
Although we typically associate tomato sauce with the country of Italy, it is actually commonly used all over the world. This could be because tomatoes are relatively easy to grow, and as a bonus, the vines are rather vertical so don't take up much room. Many people even grow tomato plants on their balconies. It could also be because they are easy to preserve in all shapes and forms by canning or using glass jars to store that delicious tomato sauce. And lastly, it could be because they lend themselves to a variety of ingredients, sometimes as the star of the dish or just there in the background playing a supporting role.
Examples of International Dishes Where Tomato Sauce Is The Sneaky Common Denominator
With only five ingredients you can really wow the taste buds of your guests with a simple chutney. All you have to do is sauté lemongrass and ginger followed by adding the tomato sauce. Before serving it up alongside shrimp for dipping, just season with some cilantro and lime juice. It can take on more of a salsa form by adding extra bell peppers, diced onions and even mangoes if you're really feeling experimental. Grab those tortilla chips and dig in.
Tomato sauce is also common in curry recipes, although you'd probably want to use one that doesn't go overboard with traditional Italian seasonings so there won't be any conflict with the flavours of the Middle East. Overheat, saute garlic, curry powder, jalapeños and some ginger (fresh works best). Then add in your tomato sauce and half as much coconut milk. Continue to simmer the recipe in the pan and then season with cilantro and salt to taste. Get creative by adding veggies or meat such as chicken or shrimp, and then serve over some steaming basmati rice with a side of naan bread. Better make a big batch of this one because no one will want to put their fork down!