Everyone has their favorite sauces to prepare. A sauce can make basic foods like chicken, omelets or pasta sing! And often in different languages. But with each category of sauce, there can be a variation that will create a twist on your old standby.
Let’s start with tomato sauce. It’s usually associated with Italian or Mexican foods, but you can easily change the flavor profile to make something slightly exotic. Tomatoes are FoodTrients because they are an excellent source of lycopene, which is an effective antioxidant. Lycopene is in the carotenoid family, which includes beta-carotene, lutein and zeanthin, important compounds for eye health.
A Harvard study of 47,000 men published in 1995 by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that those who ate ten servings or more per week of tomatoes, tomato sauce, pizza sauce and tomato juice had 45 percent fewer prostate cancers than those who ate only two servings per week. The anticancer properties of lycopene are increased by consuming foods with healthy fats such as nuts, olive oil and avocados. Lycopene has been shown to contribute to heart health by reducing oxidative damage and has also been associated with reducing blood pressure.
Tomatoes also have an extremely low glycemic index, so eating them is good for helping to regulate blood sugar levels. A one-cup serving of raw tomatoes contains almost 33 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin C, biotin, hard to get vitamin K (15 percent), potassium, manganese and vitamin A.
To DIY or Not To DIY?
You can make your own tomato sauce from scratch, but there are many excellent canned varieties that you can customize. Look for low salt or organic versions. Muir Glen, Bertolli and Trader Joe’s all have good canned sauces that are a great starting point and will leave you time and energy to get creative.
You can add a lot of excitement and flavor with these saucy international recipes:
TOMATO SAUCE RUSTICA
These days you can get excellent fresh tomatoes all year round. They’re grown in greenhouses throughout North America from Mexico to Canada. This chunky sauce is excellent on pasta, chicken or fish. You’re also getting a healthy dose of vegetables and fiber in this recipe.
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. sugar plum or heirloom cherry tomatoes, each halved
1 small, sweet onion diced into 1-inch pieces
12 fresh mushrooms, white or cremini, sliced about ¼” thick
4 garlic cloves, minced
A pinch of red pepper flakes
1½ cups canned or jarred tomato sauce
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 tsp. dried oregano
Fresh black pepper to taste
- In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat; place the onions and sauté until they become translucent.
- Add the tomatoes and continue to sauté until they start to break down, about 6 minutes.
- Add the mushrooms and stir; continue to cook for about a minute.
- Add in the tomato sauce, red pepper flakes, garlic and oregano; simmer for about 5-10 minutes; add fresh black pepper to taste.
- At the last minute, add the fresh basil leaves and stir.
Note: Tomatoes by their nature have a fair amount of salt and canned tomatoes even more so, so you may not need to add salt.
AZTEC TOMATO SAUCE
By switching just a few ingredients you have a gently spicy sauce that’s great for topping burritos, enchiladas or tamales. Also great on chicken or fish.
4 garlic cloves, minced.
1 Tbsp. olive oil.
1 ½ cups reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth
3 cups canned tomato sauce
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs. chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, chopped
½ tsp. ground oregano
1 tsp. Mexican hot chili powder (or more to taste)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
Salt to taste
- Heat the oil over medium heat in a 4-qt. saucepan; sauté the garlic for about 30 seconds
- Add the broth, the tomato sauce and stir
- Add in the vinegar, chilies and spices and stir; simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes
Note: This sauce is also good for dipping chips and as a topping for huevos rancheros.
MARRAKESH-SPICED TOMATO SAUCE
The sweet/savory spice blend gives an exotic flavor to the tomato sauce that’s delicious on lamb, poultry and vegetables like carrots and cauliflower. The cinnamon in this recipe is an excellent anti-oxidant.
1 16 oz. can diced organic tomatoes, drained
1 16 oz. can tomato sauce
1 tsp. ea:
-Ground coriander seed
1/2 tsp ea:
-Ground cayenne pepper
- In a 4-qt. saucepan, gently heat the diced tomatoes and the tomato sauce.
- Add in the spices and stir; simmer for about 10 minutes.
Note: Use the sauce to pour over baked chicken, or to stew vegetables or chickpeas. Also delicious poured over cous-cous.
TIKKA MASALA SAUCE
Indian food is having a moment! It doesn’t have to be overly spicy or complicated. This recipe usually calls for heavy cream, but we’ve replaced it with full-fat Greek yogurt. You can find amchur (dried mango powder) on Amazon and even Wal-Mart, depending on where you live.
3 cups canned or jarred tomato sauce
½ cup water
1 Tbsp. cumin seeds, ground
2 tsp. amchur powder
¼ tsp. Himalayan pink salt
1 tsp. Hungarian or Spanish paprika
1 ½ Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. paprika or cayenne pepper (for more heat)
1/3 cup full fat Greek yogurt
1 tsp. honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
Additional salt to taste
- Heat 1 Tbs. butter over medium heat in a large, deep skillet; add the spices—ground cumin, amchur powder, paprika (or cayenne) and salt and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds).
- Add minced garlic, honey, and tomato sauce with 1/2 cup of water; bring to boil and simmer for 6-7 minutes on medium-low heat.
- Add the Greek yogurt and remaining 1/2 Tbs. butter; mix well; heat the sauce for 1 minute while mixing the ingredients well.
- Taste and adjust the salt; remove from heat.
Note: Serve with grilled chicken or make a vegetarian stew with garbanzo beans, peas, carrots, chunks of potato and cauliflower.
This dish will blow your guests away at brunch! It’s an Israeli-by-way-of-Tunisia tomato-pepper stew with poached eggs. You can forgo the eggs and use the sauce with other proteins, like chicken or peeled shrimp. With the eggs, tomatoes and vegetables, this is a protein and vitamin packed FoodTrients-rich dish that’s relatively low in calories.
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into ¼-inch pieces
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. harissa (a canned or jarred hot sauce found in Middle-Eastern markets. We found it at Trader Joe’s and on Amazon)
4 cups ripe diced tomatoes, or 2 cans (14 oz. each) diced tomatoes
1 tsp. mild chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. Spanish or Hungarian paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper, or more to taste—it’s hot!
1 tsp. honey (optional, to taste)
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp. fresh flat leaf parsley for garnish
- Heat the olive oil in a deep, large skillet on medium; add the chopped onion, sauté several minutes until the onion begins to soften. Add the garlic and continue to sauté for another minute.
- Add the bell pepper; sauté for about 5 minutes until softened.
- Add tomatoes and tomato paste to the pan and stir; add the harissa, spices and honey, stir and simmer over medium heat for 5-7 minutes until it starts to reduce.
- Taste the mixture and adjust the spices to your preference; add salt and pepper to taste, more honey or more cayenne pepper for a spicier sauce.
- Make 6 indentations in the sauce, evenly spaced; crack the eggs, one at a time, directly into the dips in the sauce. Place 5 eggs around the outer edge and 1 in the center. The eggs will cook “over easy” on top of the tomato/pepper sauce.
- Cover the pan; simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked and the sauce has been reduced.
- Garnish with the parsley.
COLONEL WU’S TOMATO SAUCE
People don’t generally associate tomato sauce with Chinese cuisine. If General Tsao can have a sweet/spicy sauce, Colonel Wu can have her own tangy tomato sauce with Asian flair. (Just FYI: Lieutenant Colonel ChiaFei Vivien Wu is the Commander of the 306th Operations Support Squadron, 306th Flying Training Group, 12th Flying Training Wing, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado.)
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 large red onion OR 4 shallots, cut into wedges
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 small red chilies, de-seeded and sliced
1 cup of ketchup
¼ cup chili sauce
1 tsp. seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. light soy sauce
½ cup water
1 tsp. sugar
2 fresh tomatoes, cut into wedges
- Heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet; stir-fry the shallots (or red onion), chilies and tomato wedges until the shallots (or red onions) are softened.
- Add the garlic and stir fry another 30 seconds.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer with lid on for about 5 minutes, until the sauce reduces a bit to a thicker consistency.
Note: Serve over pork chops, chicken or shrimp.
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