Food mills have a wide range of purposes, but they’re not that common in the everyday kitchen. Chefs know their advantages, so why not take advantage of them yourself? Food mills are perfect for creating even, creamy, rich textures out of even the hardest vegetable, so they’re great for creating purees, sauces, gravies, soups, and broths, or any liquid dish you want to add some thickness or texture too.
One such dish that chefs often use food mills for is tomato sauce. Many people go out to eat at an Italian restaurant and rave about the sauce, wondering how they got the texture and taste so perfect. Well, there’s a lot that goes into this process, and I’ve outlined it for you below.
Why (and How) Should I Use a Food Mill?
Food mills are great because they produce fine flakes or particles of whatever you push through them. They work by cranking a bent blade around clockwise and counterclockwise, which then chops and pushes down the vegetable through a sieve like device at the bottom of the bowl. The bowl is bottomless, which allows you to choose which type of sieve (fine, medium, or coarse usually) that you’d like to use through interchangeable discs.
The advantages of this method, especially for tomato sauce, is that if you use the fine or medium discs, this apparatus will separate the seeds and skins out of the tomatoes for you, taking out a whole lot of headache and a lot of time out of the process. The process of running the tomatoes through the food mill is also beneficial over using something like a blender or a food processor because the tomatoes retain their density and rich flavors, as they’re not being completely pulverized.
The puree that comes out underneath the sieve disc is sure to be perfectly creamy, even, and rich in texture, and only a few more steps are needed until you have your perfect tomato sauce!
What About the Tomatoes?
Of course, the type of tomato you use for the sauce will affect its flavor, texture, and overall aesthetic. Many people, when in a hurry or without a food mill, will opt for canned tomatoes or tomato paste. It’s generally agreed that this is not the best option if you want a quality sauce, and this is why an investment in a food mill is imperative to a high-quality tomato sauce every time.
Now of course, when tomatoes are out of season, it’s probably fine to go for the canned stuff. But if you want the most robust sauce all year round, grab a food mill, all different types of tomatoes, and go to town. The mix of tomato varieties will give your sauce a bit of nuance and a nice blend of characteristics that are sure to please anyone. I like to make large batches of sauce, and then freeze them for those out of season months.
Best Easy Tomato Sauce Recipe (Using a Food Mill)
Now, I know a lot of people are sensitive about the integrity of their family tomato sauce recipe that has been passed down for generations. Every family believes theirs is the best, and why wouldn’t you? All tomato sauce is delicious!
But, for those of us who don’t have that family recipe, or if you just want to have a reference to figure out how to integrate the use of a food mill into your perfectly crafted recipe, here’s an easy one to follow. It was featured in the New York Times cooking section, so you know it’s probably delicious.
- 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced or thinly sliced
- 3 pounds ripe tomatoes, quartered
- ⅛ teaspoon sugar (optional)
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon slivered fresh basil
- Fresh ground pepper
- Heat oil in a wide frying pan over medium heat, adding garlic once it simmers. Cook for about 1 minute, then add tomatoes, thyme, salt, and sugar if you want a sweeter taste. Bring mixture to a simmer and then reduce the heat, stirring often, until mixture becomes thick. Stir in pepper and basil, taste and adjust seasonings as you see fit.
Tip: The longer you cook the sauce, the sweeter it will be. Tomatoes with higher water content will take longer to cook.
- Now, run the mixture through your food mill. This will get rid of the skin, seeds, basil leaves, and any other seasonings that may not leave the texture perfectly even and creamy. For extra mixing, you can run the product through a food processor as well, but usually, the food mill is enough.
Summary and Sources
There you have it! Using a food mill to make tomato sauce is incredibly easy, cost-effective, and saves you a lot of time and effort in terms of getting the seeds and skins out, and trying to create the perfect texture. If you don’t already have a food mill, here are my favorites!
Do you have any other tomato sauce tips you (or your family) swears by? Share them below!
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