So you’ve got your pizza dough prepared and have an idea of what toppings to use… But wait! You need a sauce!
Your pizzas should never rely on a standard, stock sauce - it should change to compliment the flavours of the toppings you are planning to use. I’ve used spicy hot sauces as a base, plain BBQ sauces, Mexican mole sauces, and even Nutella! The only limit is your imagination. Still, when you are first learning and just starting out on your experiments, it’s good to have a nice versatile "classic" sauce to start from. Here’s a few I often lean on when I’m not feeling creative:
The Plain sauce will have a tangy taste to it that compliments savoury and sweet pizzas alike, and has a certain simplicity that makes your other toppings stand out if they are particularly strong (such as meats, pineapple, and other stand-out toppings). This is particularly good for people that don't like the flavour spices add.
- Put one can of plain, crushed tomatoes into a pot. Avoid brands that have pre-mixed “italian spices” and sugars; plain ol’ crushed tomatoes do fine.
- Add a bit of salt to taste (I usually just add a dash, but some prefer a bit more)
- Warm it up! Just put the pot on low heat and give it an occasional stir. No need to cook it!
Really, that’s it! It’s just that simple!
A standard sized tin of crushed tomatoes will usually last you two or three pizza nights, depending on how sparingly you use the sauce on your pizzas. Feel free to use half the can, or otherwise be prepared to save some leftovers!
When a stranger says "pizza sauce" this is probably what they mean. The classic, the original.
- Start with a Plain sauce.
- Stir in Thyme and Oregano to taste (I use about a teaspoon of each, usually). This gives your sauce that "classic italian" flavour you find in most pizzas.
- Add a pinch of Rosemary.
Note that you can add the Thyme, Oregano, and Rosemary into the dough itself instead of to the sauce. I find that adds a bit more dimension to the pizza flavours and makes the (usually sauce-less) crust a bit of a pick-me-up, so I rarely use the Classic unless I’m feeling lazy.
This sauce works particularly well if the rest of your pizza won’t have a lot of other sweet things in it, you don’t want to put too much sweet stuff in your pizza at once.
- Start out with a Classic or Plain sauce.
- Add granulated sugar to taste (I use a few teaspoons), or a few dollops of something else sweet - such as BBQ sauce.
_(Careful if you are going for a gluten-free option, many store-bought BBQ sauces have gluten in them.)_
The added splash of garlic in this sauce works well with many pizzas, and the onions add a heaviness that works well with rich or oily pizzas (eg: crumbled sausage toppings).
- Start out with a Classic or Plain sauce.
- Finely dice half of a large yellow onion.
- Sauté the onion bits (cook on low heat with a splash of oil and a pinch of salt) until it is caramelized (it will appear translucent – it takes anywhere from 5-30 minutes. I recommend covering them for faster results and moisture retention) then add them to the sauce.
- Finely dice two cloves of garlic and stir them into the sauce.
- Let the sauce simmer for 5 minutes or so, to let the flavours meld. Note that garlic loses intensity the longer it is cooked, so adding it last makes for a very prominent garlic taste, wheras adding it early will mellow it out a bit.
This sauce is by-far my favourite. The vinegar addition adds a special complexity that pairs well with everything.
- Start out with Classic or Plain sauce.
- Pour "a few glugs" of red wine vinegar into the mix, after you are done simmering. The vinegar boils off quickly, but you also don't want the sauce to be too liquidy. You can always add some tomato paste to thicken things up again if necessary.
Oh, and one more thing - each of the sauces on this page are made even more delicious with a few tablespoons of fresh chili flakes… But I like my pizzas super spicy. ;)
I also freely use each of these sauces on pasta! Mmmm...
How to put sauce on your pizza
Many people ask me how to actually get the sauce onto your pizza. I just grab a large spoon and put a few heaping scoops directly into the center of the pizza in one big pile. Then, using almost no pressure with the back of the spoon, slowly spiral outwards to push the sauce around. It might look a little uneven, but the toppings that come later will help even it out!