I fell in love with Detroit deep dish pizzas when I lived in that city many years ago. While researching the history of those pizzas, I ran across a “copycat” recipe for the pizza sauce. I made the sauce with a few variations, and just by chance, used Cento Chef’s Cut Tomatoes. That made all the difference. The sauce is thick and flavorful. I like it so much like that It has become my “go to” tomato sauce for spaghetti and pasta, lasagna and pizzas. And it makes a great dipping sauce for Focaccia bread. I am planning several posts which include the sauce in the recipes (such as zucchini lasagna and deep dish pizza) and decided to write a post just on the tomato sauce.
Sometimes a person discovers something just “by chance.” According to a thesaurus this might also be termed “luck”, “good fortune”, “happenstance” or “serendipity.” I think that happenstance fits my situation. I’ve always made homemade spaghetti sauce using whatever type of pureed tomatoes, whole or diced tomatoes, tomato paste and sauces that I have on hand in my pantry. This time I decided to follow the recipe instructions exactly — the recipe called for using “a good quality tomato sauce.” At the grocery store, I wasn’t sure what that meant. On the shelf, Centro brand — with the bright yellow label — looked close. And as luck would have it, Cento Chef’s Cut Tomatoes were perfect for my sauce.
Later I found that the recipe specified San Marzano tomatoes. These plum tomatoes are grown in Italy in the rich volcanic soil close to Mount Vesuvius. Because of this, the tomatoes have a sweet flavor and low acidity. They are hand picked beginning in August and are considered by many chefs to to be the most preferred tomatoes for a sauce. Authentic San Marzaco tomatoes will have a label on the can or jar — DOP (Denominazione d’ Origine Protetta). Alas, the grocery store I visited didn’t have tomatoes with this label.
Great Tomatoes for my Homemade Sauce
I did find Centro “Chef’s Cut” tomatoes. This type contains both slices of tomatoes and also a thick tomato puree. There is no need to add any other type of tomato sauce or puree. The consistency is just right in thickness and the flavor is perfect. The tomatoes had a pleasing sweetness and didn’t seem too acidic.
Here is one description that I found regarding Chef’s Cut Tomatoes: “Premium Italian plum tomatoes are picked at the perfect ripeness. Cut to remove the top and bottoms prior to being cut into strips, Cento Chef’s Cut Tomatoes are packed in a full-bodied puree with a fresh basil leaf for added flavor. Low fat with no added preservatives, our tomato strips are great for pizzas.” The ingredients state: “Fresh Red Ripe Tomatoes, Tomato Puree, Salt, Naturally Derived Citric Acid, Fresh Basil Leaf.”
I found that the can contained more puree than tomato pieces; but this was perfect for my sauce. And, yes, each can does include a very large basil leaf!
Centro Brand Products
According to their WEB site, Cento is a family owned and operated company spanning three generations, with a motto of, “Trust Your Family with Our Family.” The company originated in Philadelphia in the 1950’s by Alfred Ciccotelli, Sr. who began selling imported Italian foods. The company now distributes “‘eight proprietary brands and more than 1,000 specialty products.” The tomato products, from what I could read, are all grown and imported from Italy. The WEB site states that the tomato products are now found in grocery stores in all 50 states.
Recipe and Ingredients
In addition to the tomatoes, here are the other ingredients and seasonings for my sauce. I added onion and garlic, of course. For spices, I included oregano and basil. A little sugar seems to cut the acidity of the tomatoes (although these tomatoes are sweeter than other brands). Salt, black pepper and just a few red pepper flakes (optional) are the other ingredients I included.
Making the sauce is very easy. Saute finely chopped onion in olive oil until the onion is translucent. Add minced garlic and saute for one additional minute. Then add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes on very low temperature. Stir frequently. You need time for the flavors to blend together, but don’t need to burn the sauce! Red pepper flakes are shown in the photo. They are optional and it takes just a few flakes to make the sauce “hot.” Don’t overdo it!
This is a very versatile tomato sauce. I use it for pasta and lasagna, as a pizza sauce and as a dipping sauce for homemade bread. In my opinion, it beats a purchased pasta sauce with no comparison. I’ve modified the original “copycat” recipe, but am glad for the “happenstance” discovery. (Adapted from the WEB page, ” Little Spice Jar.”) Enjoy!
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (28 oz) can of Cento Chef’s Cut Tomatoes
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp ground oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil leaves
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper1epper
- dash of red pepper flakes
Method and Steps:
- Add olive oil and chopped onion to heavy pot or small Dutch oven. Cook over medium heat until the onions become translucent, about 10 minutes.
- Add the minced garlic, stir and cook a minute longer.
- Add the tomatoes with the tomato puree, sugar, oregano, basil, salt, black pepper and a few sprinkles of red pepper flakes (optional). Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
- Reduce heat on stove to very low, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Remove from stove and use in favorite recipe.