The Smoky Ingredient You Need For Game-Changing Pasta Sauce

Smoked tomatoes on tray
Smoked tomatoes on tray

Many pasta sauces are comprised of scant few elements, often only including tomatoes, basil, olive oil, salt, and garlic. You may see a handful that have butter, spices, or other herbs like oregano, and an Italian tomato sauce may incorporate onions and a touch of sugar to balance the tomato's acidity. But for the most part, the philosophy for the best pasta sauce is to keep it simple. In fact, some people are fanatical about not adding any extra ingredients. But what if we told you that you could level up your pasta sauce without a single additional item?

The secret ingredient for a game-changing sauce isn't actually a new ingredient at all -- it's an element: smoke. By smoking your tomatoes, you'll add a deep and moody quality to your umami-rich pasta sauce that completely changes the character of your dish. It elevates the other flavors in your condiment, too, as those usual suspects of garlic, olive oil, salt, and herbs are all great partners for a smoky flavor.

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How To Smoke Tomatoes

Smoked half tomatoes with seasoning
Smoked half tomatoes with seasoning - Lucentius/Getty Images

To make this twist on your pasta sauce, all you have to do is add smokiness to the tomatoes you plan to use. There are a few ways to make this happen. If you have one, you can use your traditional smoker with charcoal or your choice of woods: Hickory, cherrywood, or applewood all work well. Alternatively, you can use a smoking gun — a compact kitchen contraption that uses a rubber tube and a small amount of wood chips to infuse foods with flavor more quickly. There are methods for smoking with an outdoor grill or even creating a makeshift smoker using a Dutch oven -- or a steamer basket -- and some foil.

When it comes to the tomato selection, halved and deseeded plum and Roma tomatoes are good choices, as both pack a strong amount of sweetness; the sugar makes them prime candidates for the caramelization that's a delicious result of this method, too. They are also a bit more substantial and dense than some other varieties, which means as they cook down, you won't lose quite as much volume as you would a tomato with a higher water content. Once you've selected your technique and put your tomatoes through the smoking process, you can follow your favorite roasted tomato sauce recipe and enjoy this subtle spin on a familiar flavor profile.

More Ways To Enjoy Your Smoked Tomato Sauce

Rigatone with smoky pasta sauce
Rigatone with smoky pasta sauce - Fcafotodigital/Getty Images

A simple tomato sauce will fit well with this smoky preparation, but you can make small tweaks for further customization. If you want to continue to level up your smoke factor, make mouthwatering smoked salt using nothing more than your microwave. For more complexity and lift, add balsamic vinegar, which also pairs beautifully with smoky flavors, and even kick up the heat with some chili flakes or paprika. You can also make your own super simple garlic oil to really amplify that allium character and even flavor your tomatoes with herbs like rosemary or thyme while they smoke.

Once you've got the hang of smoking tomatoes, these gems can be used for more than sauce. Make a delicious tomato soup with roasted red peppers, a surprising bruschetta, or a delectable simple smoky salsa when combined with herbs like cilantro and a little hot sauce. That said, if all you do to your classic tomato sauce recipe is add this smoking step, you'll have a pasta dinner you'll never forget.

Read the original article on Daily Meal