What causes a tomato sauce to have a bitterness and getting rid of it?

  • My tomato sauce is coming out great, lots of flavor, especially after I was able to reduce it following the tips here

    However, it is still slightly bitter. What causes a tomato sauce to have a (in my case, slight) bitterness and how do you get rid of it?

    Is there an anti-bitter technique that is commonly used.

    Do you start with fresh tomatoes?

    No, canned (Italian) diced tomatoes

    I find canned tomatoes do have an off taste, more bitter than anything else. Maybe you should change the brand. My teacher recommends plum tomatoes. A colleague recommends whole canned tomatoes. I recommend investigating a lot of different brands... Go with fresh mature tomatoes if you can, canned whole plum tomatoes if you can't.

    I agree: splurge on your canned tomatoes, as it makes a huge difference. The cheaper tomatoes are usually less sweet (and less flavourful overall). Plum tomatoes are nice and sweet, I often mix them 50:50 with whole canned tomatoes and fresh ones from the farmer's market.

    Do you fry garlic for the tomato sauce?

    @TimNordenfur - Yeah I fried garlic at the bottom of the pot with the onions as my first step. I've read that caramelizing the onions can also help here. Can't wait for next batch next week.

    @Matt: Perhaps you burnt the garlic? That tends to impart bitterness, I've learnt.

    I have always used chopped tinned tomatoes. If using the tomato sauce as a base for pasta and meat dishes i.e. a simple bolognese or lasagne, many authentic italian recipes opt for finely chopped carrot within the ingredients. The addition of something naturally sweet brings out the flavour of the the tomato.

  • A few things can cause tomato sauces to become bitter:

    • Overcooked spices. Both basil and oregano can become bitter with long simmers. Add them near the end of the process.
    • Under-ripe tomatos. Store bought tomatoes are often picked green and ripened in the store. These tomatoes make less sweet sauces (which may be contributing).
    • Cooking in an aluminium pan. Aluminium reacts with the acid in the tomatoes and adds an off-putting flavour.
    • Seeds/skin in the sauce. Both seeds and skins can be bitter.

    You can improve a bitter sauce by adding a small amount of baking soda (or salt), and something sweet (but not too much).

    Thank you: I love tomato sauces, they're versatile, tasty, and healthy too.

    If you have a machine to separate skins and seeds from fresh tomatoes, and you hae discovered that you can put the skins/seeds through again and get another jolt of sauce (thicker than what you get the first time through), do not put them through a third time - that will bring the bitterness from the seeds into the sauce.

    Maybe one should also add "undersalted"?

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Content dated before 6/26/2020 9:53 AM