Cooked vs uncooked pizza sauce is an eternal debate in the pizza community online. But really, it’s a debate between American and European (mainly Italian) pizza makers.
This is because a classic Neapolitan pizza recipe calls for an uncooked, raw tomato sauce. Using real San Marzano tomatoes, this kind of sauce is perfectly suited for the super-hot wood fired ovens that are so common in Naples.
But this use of raw tomato sauce isn’t the case everywhere. In the New York City area, pizza ovens tend to bake at lower temperature than in Naples, which changes how the sauce cooks on the pizza. Americans also have different flavor sensibilities than Italians.
For these reasons, pizza sauce in New York, as well as across the United States, is very often pre-cooked and seasoned before being topped on the pizza.
I love a good NYC style pizza sauce, but I prefer it on the simpler side. The cooking process adds a lot of flavor to the sauce as it is, so you don’t need much extra seasoning. And while some pizza sauce recipes call for onion and garlic and lots of herbs and spices, I limit it to just a couple of ingredients.
I also don’t cook my sauce for very long to preserve as much of the flavor of the tomatoes as possible. Once the sauce starts to bubble, I take it off the heat rather than letting it simmer for hours at a time.
In some ways, this method mimics what happens to raw tomato sauce in an extremely hot wood-fired oven. Because while a Neapolitan pizza may use a raw sauce to begin with, it certainly isn’t raw when it comes out of the oven.
I sometimes use this recipe, or a close approximation of it, on my own homemade Neapolitan pizzas. The pre-cook of the sauce makes up for the fact that my oven is nowhere near as hot as professional pizza oven, so in the end it winds up being about the same.
In any case, let’s get on with the recipe. This will give you about a jar full of NYC style pizza sauce perfect for any kind of American style pizza.
- 800 ml can of high quality whole peeled tomatoes (San Marzano DOP is best)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
- Fresh Ground pepper
- Dried oregano
- Large mixing bowl
- Potato masher (or your hands)
- Empty can of tomatoes into a large mixing bowl.
- Add about 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. I usually just eyeball a few glugs from the bottle.
- Add salt to tomatoes in the bowl.
- Using a potato masher, or your bare hands, crush up the tomatoes in the bowl. Not to the point where it becomes like a liquid, just to the point where it's smooth with some larger chunks of tomato mixed in.
- Store the uncooked sauce in a jar in the fridge until you're ready to use it.
- When you're ready to use the sauce, take 2-3 ladles full (per 12" pizza) from the jar and heat it in a saucepan on low heat.
- Crush 1 pinch of dried oregano (per pizza) between your fingers and add it to the saucepan.
- Using a pepper grinder, grind 2-3 cracks of fresh pepper (per pizza) into the saucepan.
- Stir the sauce occasionally until it starts to bubble gently and take it off the heat. Don't let it get to the point of boiling or it will thicken and lose some of its tomato flavor and wind up tasting like spaghetti sauce.