Tomato sauce… Yum!
There is nothing better than a good tomato sauce to complement a whole host of dishes. The versatility of tomato sauce makes it perfect for pairing with almost anything including meat, poultry, fish, vegetables or grain dishes.
How do you make a great gluten-free tomato sauce?
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Simple, most tomato sauces are gluten-free to begin with. However, due to its thickened consistency, there is often a misconception that it might contain gluten in the form of wheat flour. This is because flour is often used as a thickening agent. Keep reading to learn more about tomato sauce in general, how to make a great gluten-free tomato sauce, and the nutrition and health benefits involved.
Before we get into how to make a great tomato sauce, we should first review some general tomato sauce facts.
1- Tomato sauce is also known as spaghetti sauce.
2- Tomato sauce is sometimes called “gravy” in some Italian American communities.
3- Tomato sauce should not be confused with Marinara Sauce. A marinara sauce is a quickly prepared and cooked sauce which includes some spices such as garlic, pepper and basil and the tomatoes are a little chunkier.
4- Tomato sauce requires a longer time commitment and involves more complex preparation with more ingredients.
5- Although tomatoes and tomato sauces are usually associated with Italian cuisine, tomatoes actually originated in South America before being introduced in Europe.
As one of the facts clarifies, tomato sauce requires a time commitment, so there is definitely a good amount of planning involved. You will need to make a list of ingredients and have that list handy when grocery shopping. Keep in mind, all the ingredients are important in developing optimum flavor and any omission or addition can change the taste drastically.
The nutrition and health benefits you get out of a good, wholesome tomato sauce are sure to make all the planning and time commitment worth it. The ingredients listed in the recipe provided below include nutritious items such as tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, carrots, onions, basil and celery. The nutrition benefits that can be obtained from these ingredients are as follows:
– Tomatoes – Excellent source of the antioxidants vitamin C, beta-carotene, lycopene; good source of mineral manganese and vitamin E. The health benefits these nutrients carry include those that benefit cardiovascular health, bone health, and cancer prevention.
– Garlic – Excellent source of sulfur compounds, manganese, vitamin B6; good source of vitamin C and selenium. All of these nutrients combined provide benefits pertaining to cardiovascular health, anti-inflammatory benefits, anti-bacterial and anti-viral benefits and cancer prevention.
– Olive oil – Excellent source of polyphenols and phytonutrients. These nutrients lend themselves to many health benefits including cardiovascular health, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, digestive, bone health, and cognitive benefits.
– Carrots – Excellent sources of beta-carotene, and vitamin A; good source of biotin, vitamin K, fiber, molybdenum, potassium, vitamins B6 and C. They are also a good source of manganese, niacin, thiamine, pantothenic acid, phosphorous, folate, copper, and vitamins E and B12. These nutrients provide antioxidant, cardiovascular, vision health, and anti-cancer benefits.
– Onions – Onions are part of the same family as garlic, the allium family, and contain many of the same sulfur compounds as garlic. Onions are also excellent sources of flavonoid polyphenols. Health benefits include cardiovascular, anti-inflammatory, support for bone and connective tissue, and cancer prevention.
– Basil – Excellent source of vitamin K and manganese; good source of copper, vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, folate, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients provide benefits for DNA protection, anti-bacterial properties, anti-inflammatory properties, and cardiovascular health.
– Celery – Excellent source of phenolic phytonutrients, vitamin K and molybdenum; good source of folate, potassium, fiber, manganese and pantothenic acid. Also a good source of riboflavin, vitamins A, C and B6, calcium, phosphorous, and magnesium. Health benefits associated with these nutrients include antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, digestive tract, and cardiovascular support.
Image by Annalisa Antonini
Now back to our initial question, how to make a great gluten-free tomato sauce. Here is a favorite recipe:
10 ripe whole tomatoes, or 2 cans whole peeled tomatoes, or 2 cans pureed tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic
¼ cup fresh basil
1 dried bay leaf
2 celery stalks
Bell pepper (optional)
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 4 ½ hours
Working with whole tomatoes can increase preparation time. This requires boiling the tomatoes for one minute until skin begins to peel, then removing them and placing them in a bowl of ice water. Once removed, let rest for a few minutes then peel them and squeeze out the seeds. Whether you began with fresh whole tomatoes or canned peeled whole tomatoes, you will need to place them in a food processor or blender and puree them. Note that this is where using canned pureed tomatoes can save some time.
The garlic should be minced, and the onion, carrots and basil should be chopped. These ingredients can also be combined into a blender and pureed to create a paste. Whether you chop and mince or blend, combine the oil, butter, garlic, onion, and carrots in a large saucepot over medium heat and cook for about five minutes until onion begins to soften. If you decide you would like your sauce to have a peppery flavor, you would chop the bell pepper and add it into the pot in this first step as well.
Next, pour in the pureed tomatoes and chopped basil. Place celery stalks and bay leaf in pot, bring sauce to a boil then reduce heat to low. Cover and let simmer for four hours. Make sure you periodically stir the sauce often, this is very important in order to avoid burning the sauce on the bottom of the pot. Stirring also gives you the opportunity to sample the sauce so that you know whether or not you want to add salt and pepper.
Discard the bay leaf and celery stalks when ready to serve. If you do not think you will be using all of the sauce in one shot, jarring and freezing is a good way to preserve. Sauce can then be reheated in a pot over medium heat or in the microwave.
As long as you do not use wheat, barley, rye, or oats in your sauce or dish then your meal should remain gluten-free. And voila! You have a great gluten-free tomato sauce. This is a tasty sauce that is sure to delight your taste buds and become a staple in your repertoire of dishes. You are sure to do yourself a favor by setting aside the time to try this out.