Tomato sauce recipes: less sweetness

I like Indian food, and often throw together my own improvised sauces using fresh spices, nuts and so on. However, even when following actual recipes, I never quite get tomato-based sauces right; using finely-chopped tomatoes (fresh or from a can), the sauce always becomes has the distinct, vegetable taste of fresh tomatoes, too light and sweet for a sauce. Throwing in salt, pepper, butter and tomato purée helps “deepening” the taste somewhat, but I’m still not quite there. Some recipes list red wine, which I have not tried; and some sources indicate that tomato sauces should slow-cook for hours to break down the solids. What is the secret?

Generally, the longer you cook tomatoes, the more bitter they become. An hour is about all you really want to simmer a tomato sauce. A blast of red wine will take some of the sweetness off and add some dimension to your sauce. But there is nothing wrong with the sweet taste of tomato, IMO.

Try a teaspoon or two of Worcestershire sauce: Lea and Perrins, naturally. The sharp tang will cut the sweetness without making it overly salty.

You should rarely need tomato for Indian cooking and sauces, yoghurt and powdered nut based sauces are more common. If you are making a tika massalla try using thick tomato soup as that is authentic for that particular anglo/Indian masterpeice. Other times using tomato finely chopped and added late for one style of sauce, or else long cooked for another in accordance with whatever flavour you are going for. For general tomato sauces Itallian pure tomato sauce is excellent if you can find it (don’t get the type with basil added if you use it for non-Italian food). It keeps well in a fridge and has many good uses.
Often a little salt, wostercshire sauce,vinegar, wine, and even sugar can be added as appropriate to a tomato sauce to make it taste more tomatoey. Using good tomato paste from the tube is the best way to thicken usually.

Useful, thanks.

I agree. Usually, the problem is the tomatoes are not sweet enough (hence all the tips about adding some sugar to balance the acidity.)

Also, it helps to drain your canned tomatoes a little bit or, if it’s tomato season and you’re using fresh 'maters, make sure to peel them and scoop out the seeds and the gloppy innards. You obviously don’t have to, and sometimes it’s desirable to leave all the goodies in, but I find that I prefer the texture and thickness of the final sauce better with seeded tomatoes.

While I think Worcerstershire sauce has its place in cooking (especially in stuff like Shepherd’s Pie), I would avoid it in anything Italian or Indian. It just doesn’t belong there.

Though I do tend to agree that Worcestershire Sauce has limited uses it does have its origins in India so isn’t completely out of place in Indain cookery (unlike the old Chinese cookbooks I have that suggest substituting it for Soy Sauce ! )

Interesting. I would have guessed that it came from further east, like Thailand, given the presence of anchovies and tamarinds in the sauce. While I’m used to seeing the latter in Indian cooking as well, I haven’t seen the former used at all. (Although in my cooking I tend to stick to northern Indian dishes. I guess I wouldn’t be surprised if coastal areas used some sort of fish sauce in their dishes. But I have yet to try an Indian dish that has that tell-tale anchovy flavor.)