Salsa de tomate ~ Tomate frito ~ Spanish Tomato Sauce


Recently during one of my book browsing sessions at the mall, I came across a book solely devoted to olive oil and recipes with olive oil as the key ingredient. The book is aptly titled "Olive Oil," and comes with some really great photography and excellent recipes.

The recipes have been arranged meticulously, starting with basics such as dressings, preserves and sauces, and taking the reader forward to more adventurous dishes - appetizers, sides and mains. Though many recipes are non-vegetarian they can easily be adapted for vegan cooking. For example, the recipe for 'ground meat kababs' is more about the marinade and the herbs and less about the meat. One can replace the meat with vegetable seekh kababs or soya kababs and the dish will still taste sumptuous because it relies only on development of flavours from the marinade.

I already have a favourite recipe from the book. It is a basic sauce that I have used in several dishes, because it is versatile, tasty and does not call for too many exotic ingredients. Yes, you still have to go to the mall, as not all the ingredients will be available with the local kirana-wallah! I hope you try this too, and if you do, let me know how you used it. I could use some ideas!

The original recipe recommends the use of canned tomatoes in the recipe, and dry sherry for deglazing. I have used fresh tomatoes, and Sula's Chenin Blanc, which though fruity, is well suited for this dish. If you do not use alcohol at all, just use stock, water or vinegar.

What is deglazing?
Deglazing is the process of adding a liquid (preferably mildly acidic) to a pan after reduction of gravy, in order to remove the bits of vegetables stuck to the bottom of the pan (the French call this 'fond') and incorporate those flavours back in the dish.

It is common practice to use water instead of alcohol in Indian curries, especially while reducing the tomato-onion gravy in chhole/rajma etc., or after sauteeing the masalas for a pulav. Only, we do not have a fancy term. The French have a term to describe the process - deglazing.

Addition of wine enhances the flavour of the 'fond'. The alcohol evaporates in the cooking process and all that is left is the flavour. I often use vegetable stock in most Indian dishes where traditionally water is used.

Do not incorporate the residue if burnt! When I was a novice cook I would often forget simmering curries on the stove and ended up with burnt vessels. I used vinegar/wine/lime juice to deglaze the pan - not to add flavour but to clean the pan more easily. Deglazing with alcohol has more then just one use!

Back to the sauce!
The sauce is best made between January and March in India when tomatoes are available in plenty, are juicy and as a bonus, cost as low as Rs.10/- a kg! We celebrate the abundance by making thokku (tomato pickle), sauces, tarts, soups, oven roasted tomatoes for starters, and rice in various forms while the season lasts! What is your favourite tomato indulgence?


Dish: Salsa de tomate ~ Tomate Frito ~ Spanish Tomato Sauce
Adapted from 'Olive Oil' by Tess Mallos (By Tuttle Publishing)
Yield: 4 cups heaped

Ingredient information: Contains white wine, and can be substituted by balsamic vinegar or dry sherry

Olive oil - 1/4 cup + extra for storage of sauce
Onions - 2 large, roughly chopped
Garlic - 2 cloves, crushed lightly and peeled
Red bell pepper - 1 large, cored, deseeded and chopped rough
Tomatoes - 1 kg. or about 12 medium sized ripe tomatoes
Chives - 2 tbsp., chopped
Thyme - 2 tbsp., picked from stem
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, as per taste
White wine (It should be something that you will drink as well - I used sula) - 3 tbsp.


Blanch tomatoes in boiled water. Stand covered for 15 minutes. Peel tomatoes and chop roughly, without letting the juice drain.

Warm the olive oil in a sauce pan over low heat. Add garlic and onions and cook till transparent, stirring all the while, about 2-5 minutes. Add bell pepper, cover and cook with a pinch of salt for about 15 minutes.

Add tomatoes. Cook till reduced to a thick pulp, about half an hour. Stir every few minutes. Add the wine to deglaze, cook for about 2 minutes and add the rest of the ingredients except salt.

Cook for about 10 minutes till pulpy, on low fire. Taste and season as required.

Cool to room temperature.

Puree in small batches so that it is a rough sauce. I keep it rough.


Use right away or store.


Use small sterilized glass jars and store in many jars instead of one big one. This way you can use just as much as needed and the rest remain fresh longer as they are not opened till necessary.

Fill each jar leaving an inch of space. Pour a tablespoon or two of extra virgin olive oil as a protective layer on the top before closing. Each time you use, see that a thin layer of oil remains on top of the left over sauce. This helps the sauce last longer.

The longest I have stored and used a batch is for about three weeks.


The olive oil I used for this recipe is the extra light variety by Borges. Borges are olive oil producers and exporters from Spain and have recently launched their products in India. I was contacted for trying out their sample packs a month back. The sample pack consisted of 250ml each of extra virgin olive oil, pure olive oil and extra light olive oil. Extra light olive oil is recommended for frying, roasting and baking as it has a very light flavour and does not overpower or mask the flavours of other ingredients. I do not generally accept product reviews but an offer from Borges seemed irresistible as they are reputed. I am happy to say that the oil did not disappoint me. I use the extra virgin oil in salads and on top of breads and we love the flavour. I have used the extra light version in India dishes such as dal and aloo-gobhi as well, and there was absolutely no difference!

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