• #1 by Slow Eddie on 17 Sep 2006
  • I've always been under the impression that you could not taste test an uncooked pizza sauce because the ingredients needed the heat to release their respective flavors. Is there much truth to this? What I have been doing is mixing the ingredients and then immediately refrigerating the sauce overnight before use.

    And more importantly, how do the pizza operators do it? Do they use cooked or uncooked sauce?

    Also I've noticed that olive oil tends to make my sauce a little too oily for my preference.... is it a pizza making sin to not include olive oil in your sauce recipe?


  • #2 by varasano on 17 Sep 2006
  • Canned tomatoes are heated prior to canning. They you cook them to make a sauce. Then they cook in a hot pizza oven...  So they cook 3 times. Leaving out the middle step still leaves 2 times.

    Basically, they cook on the pie.

    No it is not a sin to leave out oil.

    If you click the icon under my name you will see my sauce recipe tips.

  • #3 by Brooklyn John on 17 Sep 2006
  • I'm not an expert by any means, but I've always been told that oregano needs heat to release it's flavor. Don't know if that's actually true. When I make sauce using 6 in 1, I do get a different flavor if I cook the sauce with added spices for 10 minutes or so than if I spoon the tomatoes right out of the can onto the dough and then add spices. Either way tastes great, just different. I am wondering if other forum members have had the same experience?
  • #4 by John39840 on 28 Sep 2006
  • I believe in cooking the sauce days in advance, and then letting it chill in the refrigerator. Except, I only let the sauce simmer on the lowest possible temperature, and only for 15 minutes.... just long enough to develop and enhance the natural flavors. You don't want the sauce to cook too long, as it will be cooked again ontop of the pizza. I also find that a hint of olive oil is just as much a food/sauce enhancer as is salt, and perhaps MSG.
  • #5 by November on 30 Sep 2006
  • As I mentioned in a recent post, Little Caesar's uses cold sauce preparation.  This is the preferred method of making sauces.  I was going to save this for a motherload post coming soon, but here it is now - straight from the research laboratory:

    The two greatest concerns with cold sauce preparation are: 1) enzyme activation of pectin 2) full flavor extraction from seasonings.  Both of these problems can be be solved so simply, you're probably going to wonder why you haven't been doing this all along.  When preparing the sauce from a tomato paste base, add all the seasonings to the water portion in a microwave safe measuring cup.  Microwave the water-seasoning mixture at 30% power for 2 minutes.  There are a few things going on here that are very important.  First, the enzyme commonly found in Allium bulbs (e.g. onion, garlic) breaks down and no longer poses a threat of reacting with the pectin in tomato.  Second, microwaves (the energy, not the machine) superheat the cytoplasm causing the cell walls to rupture and release the alkaloids and resins (the flavor molecules you're after).  Believe it or not, a lot of academic research has gone into microwave-based alkaloid extractions.  This is a really good application of science developed in industries not related to food.  All one has to do next is allow the water-seasoning mixture to cool to room temperature before adding it to the paste.  Refrigerate immediately and for at least 6 hours before using.

    I wanted to also make clear one of the main reasons cold sauce preparation is considered superior by a lot of restauranteurs.  Commercial tomato product processing plants evaporate tomato puree under a vacuum and temperatures no higher than 140 F.  Unless you have a vacuum distillation apparatus at home, you will never be able to achieve the same concentration as canned tomato paste without sacrificing some of the flavor.
  • #6 by Pete-zza on 30 Sep 2006
  • November,

    The general approach you discuss in relation to herbs is similar to one recommended by one of our new members, Pizza Shark, also a seasoned (no pun intended) veteran of the pizza industry. When he used to post on the PMQ Think Tank forum, he often recommended that oregano in particular be put in hot or boiling water to release the compounds that contribute to flavor. Some of those posts made their way onto this forum. Pizza Shark also recommended an herb spray to coat the rims of pizzas or to be used as a dipping sauce for breadsticks and the like that was made by putting the herbs in hot oil to release the flavors. An example of an excerpt I was able to find this morning in the PMQTT archives is this one:

    You can buy an olive oil blend by the gallon and then put your own seasonings in it. Try a mix of herbs like garlic powder, oregano, basil, crushed red pepper, rosemary always adds a totally different flavor too. Take a gallon of it, put about 2 cups of the oil in a pot and heat it with your herbs to release their flavor... Don't burn or fry them though.

    My recollection is that Pizza Shark also had a special way of working with fresh garlic and fresh basil.

  • #7 by November on 30 Sep 2006
  • The technique, known in the industrial chemical engineering world as Microwave-Assisted Extraction (MAE), is more effective than simple heating though.  The following is a more detailed description of the cytoplasmic eruption as described by Girija Raman and Vilas G. Gaikar of the Department of Chemical Technology, University of Mumbai.

    "Studies have revealed that dielectric heating of the polar cellular matrix resulted in remarkable swelling and coalescence of the oil cells and other constituents. The resulting pressure, built-up within the cell, breaks open the cell, releasing the constituents and providing easy access for solvent penetration (water in this case) [...] During the microwave treatment, membranes of oil droplets rupture and the oil accumulates near the cell wall.  The protein structures also agglomerate into larger particles.  When the power level is low, this coalescence takes place over a longer period of time, but at higher power levels, the confluencing of smaller lipid bodies into larger agglomerates occurs at an early stage of heating, leading to a rapid cell rupture and an increased rate of extraction."

    What this basically states is that because the inside of the cell is dielectric like water, the microwaves have a greater impact on membrane stabilization, allowing for cell wall penetration without raising the heat of the product as much as would be necessary with conductive heat alone.  This means that some of the valuable resins that have low evaporation points would not evaporate off like they would if brought to a boil through conductive heating.  Overall, the goal is to extract the alkaloids and resins without bringing the temperature above 160 F.  To achieve maximum extraction, one can reduce the amount of water used so that the seasonings are moist, but not suspended in water.  Also to clear up any confusion over the power level, it should be between 300 and 420 watts, or 30% power on a 1000 to 1400 watt oven.  You can do the math if your microwave oven wattage varies.
  • #8 by November on 04 Oct 2006
  • I decided to finally release my #2 pizza sauce into the wild, and figured I would put it here since the instructions for handling the herbs and spices in the microwave are already in this thread.† First the ingredients, then a few notes, then a few instructions, and finally a few more notes.

    Red November Sauce (#2)
    †28 oz   11.3 NTSS (1.053 g/cc) tomato puree
    †14 g   sucrose
    † †7 g   salt
    3.5 g   herbs & spices (see below)
    3.5 g   garlic powder
    3.5 g   onion powder

    herbs & spices (dried & crushed)
    † earthy component
    † † 4 vu oregano
    † † 2 vu marjoram
    † † 1 vu parsley
    † sweet component
    † † 4 vu basil
    † † 2 vu tarragon
    † † 1 vu fennel seed
    † savory component
    † † 2 vu rosemary
    † † 2 vu thyme
    † spicy component
    † † 1 vu paprika
    † † 1 vu black pepper

       "vu" stands for volume unit since the measurements are expressed in ratios. If measured accurately and the herbs are crushed sufficiently, the total mass should be 3.5g when 1 vu = 1/8 tsp.
       Add the sucrose (table sugar) and salt to the sauce first and whisk.† In a separate sealable container measure and mix all the herbs and spices as well as the garlic and onion powders.† I recommend choosing a volume unit that allows you to match your quantity of puree exactly.† Trying to divide the herbs and spices after mixing will lead to uneven distribution.† Seal the container and shake well.† Pour the mixture into a microwaveable container such as a small Pyrex measuring cup.† Add just enough filtered water to the mixture so that it is completely moist, but not suspended in water.† Follow the microwave instructions in my two previous posts.† Add the herbs and spices to the puree.† Whisk and place in refrigerator to chill for at least 6 hours before using.
       As you might be able to tell, the herbs and spices are deliberately matched according to a specific flavor profile.† There's a lot I could say about the reasoning behind the seasoning, as it took a long time to investigate each herb and spice in order to give it a profile component value, but it all still comes down to how each person thinks it tastes.† The more experienced on this site should already know this, but be sure the puree has no added substances (e.g. salt, citric acid, seasonings) if you buy it canned.† I hope I covered everything.

    - red.november
  • #9 by mivler on 27 Oct 2006
  • November,

    Thanks for the recipe. I have started to tinker with my sauce. I have not been doing it too long and therefore I am going to try  yours as a starting point (and possible an end point if I am very happy with it). If you donít mind can you clarify some question I have? Thanks in advance for any pointers.

    Do you add all of these seasonings or one from each flavor profile? If I do not want to add any water to my sauce, will the flavors mingle as well if I mix everything the day before or will I never get as much flavor without the microwave method? Can you clarify how much water I need? Can I use a spray bottle and mist so everything is moist? Does the microwave timing work if I want to make a huge batch of sauce? It sounds like this works with real onion and garlic. Is this the case? Do you just prefer the powder versions or is there a reason you do not use them? Does the microwave timing differ if I have onions and/or garlic?

    Thanks for the help.

  • #10 by November on 27 Oct 2006
  • mivler,

    Those are some good questions, and I'm glad you asked them.† I've been wondering for a while whether I should post more info about the microwaving process and its significance.

    "Do you add all of these seasonings or one from each flavor profile?"

    The main reason why I broke them down into separate flavor profile components is that I (or someone else) can adjust each one on its own if he/she likes their sauce to be more spicy, or less sweet, etc.† I use every last herb and spice in the list, and in the proportions listed.† However you may like it to be a little spicier, so you might want to raise the spicy component by 100% so that it's 2 units of paprika and 2 units of black pepper.† If you're into sweet sauces, you may decide to raise the sweet component (in addition to possibly more sugar) by 50% so that it's 6 units basil, 3 units tarragon, and 1.5 units fennel seed.† If you just raise the amount of fennel seed, typically you just get a more "fennelly" taste.† Each ingredient within each flavor profile component is meant to work together in those proportions.† Of course, this is by no means a warning against experimenting on your own, it's just the way I set it up.

    "If I do not want to add any water to my sauce, will the flavors mingle as well if I mix everything the day before or will I never get as much flavor without the microwave method?"

    That's the question I've been wondering whether I should answer before someone asks.† One reason behind using the microwave assisted extraction (MAE) process is because when working with either fresh tomatoes or freshly opened boxes/cans of tomato product, you're racing against the freshness clock.† You want your sauce to be as fresh as possible, but waiting for flavors to be infused in the sauce runs counter to your goal of fresh sauce.† The magic ratio I've found when testing the difference is 1:2.5.† Meaning that if you elect to avoid microwaving, your wait time to achieve the same level of flavor is two and a half times as long as using MAE.† I get full flavor using MAE about 2 days after making the sauce, and about 5 days after making it without the microwave.† In summary, in consideration of the flavor, you can forgo the microwave process if you just keep your sauce around longer.† The other reason behind MAE I mentioned in a previous post: "the enzyme commonly found in Allium bulbs (e.g. onion, garlic) breaks down and no longer poses a threat of reacting with the pectin in tomato."† If you use straight onion or garlic, whether it's fresh or powdered, there's a chance your cold-prepared sauce will turn into gelatin.

    Another trick that works well and addresses your concern over water in your sauce (which is on the order of a few grams anyway) and addresses the tomato freshness goal, is to use MAE on your herbs and spices, but afterwards leave them in the container with a lid or plastic wrap not tightly sealed and keep it in your refrigerator until the herbs and spices are nearly dried out.† I've kept it in my refrigerator for as long as two weeks, although that was just to test how long I could go without loosing flavors or creating new and unexpected ones.† During this time, the alkaloids and resins have a chance to seep completely out of the cell structures.† I don't have an exact time-scale for seeing the maximum benefit on this trick, but I can tell you that the herbs and spices I kept for two weeks before including it in my strained tomatoes added instant full flavor.

    "Can you clarify how much water I need? Can I use a spray bottle and mist so everything is moist?"

    What I said earlier, "seasonings are moist, but not suspended in water" is pretty much the best guideline I can give you.† You can use a spray bottle if you want.† Maybe envisioning the following will help you understand the hydration level your seeking: imagine a paper towel that is completely saturated with water but when you hold it up by the corner, it doesn't drip any water.† That's what you're going for.† Pretend all those flakes of herbs and particles of spices are tiny paper towels that need to be completely saturated so that there are no dry spots, but not so wet as to able to drip water.

    One thing I didn't mention because I didn't know how people felt about alcohol in their sauce, is that you can use absolute alcohol instead of water and extract more in less time.† More because alcohol is a better solvent for plant resins, and less time because alcohol evaporates much more quickly.

    "Does the microwave timing work if I want to make a huge batch of sauce?"

    Yes, just increase the microwave time.† Prepare for some math, or tell me your exact parameters and I'll figure it out for you.† Here's what you need to know if you want to be precise:

    1 watt = 0.42992261 F/g/s (i.e. degrees Fahrenheit per gram per second)
    1 microwave watt = 1 watt (0.42992261) * wave scatter coefficient (0.125) = 0.0537403262 F/g/s

    The first objective is to keep the power between 300 and 420 watts.† So if you have a microwave oven in the power range of 1000 to 1400 watts, use 30% power.† Next calculate the exact power you're using, so if you have a 1200 watt microwave, you know you are using 1200 * 0.3 = 360 watts of power.† The second objective is to radiate the mixture to the point it reaches no higher than 160 F.† To determine how long you microwave for, use the following equation:

    (160 - [water temp]) * [water mass] / ([exact power] * 0.0537403262)


    (160F - 67F) * 10g / (360W * 0.0537403262) = 48 seconds

    "It sounds like this works with real onion and garlic. Is this the case? Do you just prefer the powder versions or is there a reason you do not use them? Does the microwave timing differ if I have onions and/or garlic?"

    You mean fresh or raw onion and garlic?† I would hope the onion and garlic powder you buy is from real bulbs.† It will work, but then you have to factor in how much water is in the raw bulbs.† Raw onions are 89.1% water and raw garlic is 58.6% water.† If you use raw onion and garlic, just add the extra water from the bulbs to the [water mass] variable in the equation.† So if you decide to add 2 grams of minced onion, add 1.782g to the water mass.

    Well that wraps up the longest post I think I have ever made on a forum.† If you have any more questions: 1) I'll be impressed 2) I'll be happy to answer them.

    - red.november

    EDIT: Corrected prefactored coefficient and clerical errors.
  • #11 by mivler on 28 Oct 2006
  • November,

    Thanks for all the info. Hopefully you (and others) realize that even if people donít write a response, many people learn from and use all the great information on the forum. You have provided me a lot of helpful information and for that I thank you.

    The day I read your post I put a tablespoon of oregano into a little water. I nuked it for a few minutes (I do not know the wattage of my microwave, it is very old). When it cooled I added the water mixture to a can of 6-in-1. I used it right away and it tasted like I had added a little too much oregano (too much of a good thing). A few days later I used the sauce on some eggplant crisps,3956.msg33083.html#msg33083
    It was a burst of oregano. I actually had to add some additional pureed tomatoes to cut down the flavor. Since then I have been very interested in trying the method again I just wanted to make sure I understood what I was doing first. Also, your sauce looks interesting.

    I know you answered all my questions. I will reread this a few times and let you know if I still have any other question. I'm pretty sure that using powdered onion and garlic do not taste the same as using the fresh but I have never done a side by side comparison.

    I am going to do see if I can figure out the wattage on my microwave.

    Again, thanks for the info.

  • #12 by November on 28 Oct 2006
  • Michael,

    I'm glad to hear you are finding the information useful.  If it's a really old microwave oven, it may not matter if you know the advertised wattage because over time either the power management circuit (transformer, radiation sensor, control input interface) or the magnetron itself eventually wears out and produces less wattage output anyway.  A very good way to test the power of your microwave oven is to see how long it takes to heat 100g of water.  If you have a reliable digital thermometer, read the temperature of the water as you place it in the microwave and microwave on the highest setting for 60 seconds.  Read the temperature immediately after the 60 seconds are up.  The best container for this is a 1 cup Pyrex measuring cup.  If you decide to do it, let me know the before and after temperature.

    - red.november
  • #13 by nepa-pizza-snob on 28 Oct 2006
  • So if I understand this correctly - the rupturing of cell membranes using microwave for the purpose
    of flavor essence extraction should work on most any herb or plant based spice?
  • #14 by mivler on 28 Oct 2006
  • November,

    Thanks, I actually don't know how old it is, we bought it used

    100 grams of water

    Start temo 67
    End temperature 183

  • #15 by November on 29 Oct 2006
  • nepa-pizza-snob,

    That is correct.  Microwaves (the wave, not the oven) are much more efficient at causing this plasma membrane rupture than heat alone, and as long as you keep the temperature bellow 160 F, the flavor-giving resins won't evaporate on you.


    I would say that you either have a really, really old oven or you have an old oven in very good shape, because you're putting out 720 watts.  Since microwaves are still sold in the 700W range, it's possible that is what you have, or you have an 800W or 900W oven that's seen better days.  Either way, I would go forth assuming your oven cooks at 720W.  In this case, use 50% power when you microwave your herbs and spices.

    - red.november
  • #16 by Fio on 29 Oct 2006
  • 28 oz. can of 6-in-1 tomatoes.

    1/4 tsp. garlic powder
    1/4 tsp. turkish oregano
    1/2 tsp. basil

    Mix it up the day before you cook your pizza.
    Slather on your stretched pizza dough.
    Add cheese, toppings.
    Bake at 800 degrees for a couple minutes.


    That's all there is to it.  You'll wet your pants it's so freaking good.
    And in the time you save worrying about molecular chemistry of extracted phenols, you can have another beer and kiss your wife.
  • #17 by November on 29 Oct 2006
  • Bake at 800 degrees for a couple minutes. [...] That's all there is to it.

    At first I thought your recipe for good pizza was simple; after all you did say, "That's all there is to it" but then I got to the part where you said 800 degrees.  Somehow I think more people have a microwave oven than an 800 degree oven.  You can go out of your way to bake your pizza at 800 degrees if you like.  I'll just use a common kitchen appliance to improve the flavor of my pizza.

    - red.november
  • #18 by Fio on 29 Oct 2006
  • At first I thought your recipe for good pizza was simple; after all you did say, "That's all there is to it" but then I got to the part where you said 800 degrees.  Somehow I think more people have a microwave oven than an 800 degree oven.  You can go out of your way to bake your pizza at 800 degrees if you like.  I'll just use a common kitchen appliance to improve the flavor of my pizza.

    - red.november

    My point was the simplicity of the sauce; The sauce still tastes amazingly good cooked at 550 in a home oven.
    The 800 degrees isn't critical; I was just kidding.
  • #19 by November on 29 Oct 2006
  • Fio,

    Then I guess I could say "in the time you save [not] worrying about" getting your oven to 800 degrees, you could read an article on "molecular chemistry of extracted phenols."  And there's nothing that says I'm kidding like an image of a thermometer reading 803 degrees.  You're serious about having a really hot oven and I respect that.  I'm serious about getting the most out of my seasonings.  Don't cross the line with antagonistic remarks like "I can appreciate your love for the art, but PLEASE" as if using a microwave oven was something extreme in the culinary world.  I couldn't have saved any time not worrying about MAE for the purpose of cooking; I already knew about it from a chemical engineering project I worked on about a year ago.

    - red.november
  • #20 by mivler on 29 Oct 2006
  • November,

    Thanks for the information. I'm curious how you figured that out but I probably wouldn't understand it anyway.
    The first time I used this high quality oregano I put it on the pizza after it was cooked. I couldn't understand why the flavor was so subtle. I was thinking about when I go to pizzerias and there are pepper flakes and oregano to put on top of pizza. I guess that doesn't really make sense.

    Fio, thanks for the recipe. I have tried everything from using 6-in-1 right out of the can to a lot of several herbs, spices, oil, salt and some other ingredients. I agree in some cases less is more, but I sometimes prefer a more seasoned sauce. Iím still early in my sauce experimentations. What amazes me is how easy it is to produce a sauce that tastes better than most jarred sauces.