Pizza Lab – Science of the Sauce

The Slice at Serious Eats website has some great articles that explain the science and details about some of the fundamentals of pizza. The one I’m reading now is about New York Pizza Sauce. I always use the same sauce recipe I found from Cooks website, but it never has tasted quite right. The Serious Eats article is a good resource for learning about the different ingredients (olive oil versus butter, crushed tomatoes versus tomato puree, dried herbs versus fresh) that make a good sauce. Of course everyone has their own preferences for how a sauce should taste (should it be sweet or spicy?).
pizza sauce

Some of the things I’ve learned already is that it’s OK to use canned tomatoes rather than rely on the freshness of the ones found at a store, and dried herbs do just as well as fresh if you cook them long enough to bring out the flavor. Except for basil which should be added fresh, a sprig added at the beginning and taken out at the end.

I’ll have to keep reading and use some of these tips for my next sauce!

Pizza Sauce Spices to Grow in Garden

I’m wondering how fresh herbs would taste in the pizza sauce compared to dried. My pizza sauce calls for garlic, oregano, fennel seed, marjoram, basil, thyme, and rosemary. I stopped by the garden center today to pick up a few potted herbs. They were $2.99 each though, so I only got basil and rosemary.


And of course we always get a few tomato plants. We have tons of little tomato plants coming up in the garden from last year. But I got a couple SuperSteak and BestBoy plants.

tomato plants
Tomato plants

I grew garlic plants last year but was unable to use all of them and it seemed like a lot of work to dig them up each year. I’m not sure if it’s worth it to have fresh garlic.

Here are some images of the other herbs used:

Fennel Seed
Fennel Seed

Do you think fresh herbs are better and worth the extra effort to use in pizza sauces?

What is Pizziola and Bruschetta?

I found a few recipes on the back of a box of Texas Toast — one for Pizziola and one for Bruschetta. I’ve heard of bruschetta, but what exactly are these dishes?

Pizziola or Pizzaiola Definition

I actually couldn’t find many definitions of pizziola and noticed that it is also (more commonly?) spelled pizzaiola. There are many dishes and recipes out there that include pizzaiola in the name. Wiktionary gives the definition as ‘Prepared with an Italian sauce made from tomato and oregano’ so it sounds pretty similar to pizza sauce to me. The name also applies to dishes made with this sauce. Here’s another source from Home Cooking Consultant that describes it as a pizza-like sauce made with tomatoes, garlic and olive oil. It gives a recipe that can be used with meats such as beef, veal, or chicken. The texas toast box just says sprinkle spaghetti sauce and chopped mushrooms on top of the garlic cheese bread.

Bruschetta Definition

Merriam-webster defines it as thick slices of bread grilled, rubbed with garlic, drizzled with olive oil, often topped with tomatoes and herbs, and usually served as an appetizer. The word comes from Italian bruscare, to toast or burn. The texas toast box says just place chopped tomato and onion on top of the cheese bread and sprinkle with fresh basil. Sounds like it’s missing the basic ingredient, olive oil. There’s a good article on that explains how to make a basic Bruschetta. Here’s an article that clarifies that Bruschetta just refers to grilled bread, not bread with tomato and other toppings. It also gives a recipe for a Mexican variation.

Reducing Acidity in Tomato Pizza Sauce

A big factor in making a pizza great is the sauce! Sometimes the sauce doesn’t stand out at all, sometimes you notice it’s really great, and other times it’s quite bland or not quite to your liking. Is it thick or thin, sugary, sweet, tomato-y, spicy, bland, or just the right amount of spices? Many are concerned with counter-balancing the acidity of the tomatoes in the sauce. I sometimes have a hard time telling if a sauce is too acidic, but comparing it to a sauce I really like, I can tell a difference – it can be a little tart. Some people have acid reflux and acidic foods cause a lot of heartburn. So when making spaghetti or pizza sauce, how do you balance out the acidity and tomato taste?

Mask the Flavor

One method is to add sugar or carrots to counter-balance the acidic taste. You cook the carrots down and remove them at the end if you don’t want to keep the carrots in the sauce. But adding these things won’t change the actual pH of the sauce so won’t help with acid reflux or heartburn. The sugar will make the sauce taste sweet, which I don’t prefer. Adding water will dilute the sauce so the acid isn’t detected as much, but it will dilute all the other flavors as well.

Spaghetti sauce

Acid vs. Base

The first way to counter act the acid in the sauce is to add an alkaline (basic) ingredient, like baking soda. Just add a small amount at a time and stir it well, until you get the taste you want. You won’t be able to take any out once you put it in, since it will react! A little milk may also work. Cheese has also been suggested, since the calcium can react with the acid. Try a little grated Parmesan. This will add its own flavors though, so make sure you taste it to make sure it’s satisfactory. Reducing the acidity and not just masking the flavor with others is the best way to go for those that have heartburn. The pH of tomatoes is about 4.6, carrots about 6.0, and water 7.0.

What do you do to balance acidity in tomato sauce?