If you’re a lover of pizza, like the majority of people, then you’ve probably thought about making homemade pizza at some point. If you’re are, then great! It’s easier than you’d think, but only if you get the techniques right. Say you’ve got your dough and toppings, but you’ve only got pasta sauce instead of pizza sauce. Is that going to be a problem?
Pasta sauce can be used on a pizza, but it will yield different results. Pizza sauce is traditionally uncooked before going on the pizza whilst pasta sauce is cooked. Although uncooked tomato sauce tastes better on pizza, the pasta sauce will still produce tasty results.
If you’re just making a basic home pizza, pasta sauce is still going to leave you with a great-tasting pizza, but the flavor will be different from what you’re used to. Pizza sauce is just cooked once, leaving the flavor fresh on the pizza. Pasta sauce is cooked once for a long period of time, then cooked again on the pizza, which leaves you with none of that fresh tomato flavor you get on good pizza.
So, it can be done. The question is whether you’re that bothered about how authentic the sauce tastes. If you just want decent homemade pizza, then you can put on whatever sauce you’d like.
The Differences Between Pizza Sauce And Pasta Sauce
To the inexperienced home cook, a tomato sauce may seem to be the same thing whether it’s on pizza or pasta, but they couldn’t be further from the truth. There are plenty of different sauces that all have different textures, consistencies, and flavors, but they all stem from one basic ingredient: the tomato. Pizza sauce is one of the most simple forms of tomato sauce since it’s generally uncooked with only basic ingredients, but pasta sauce has a lot more going on.
For you to get a better understanding of just how different these two sauces are, let’s go through what makes them fit for their designated purposes:
|Pizza Sauce||Pasta Sauce|
|Uncooked||Cooked For A Long Time|
|Very Basic Ingredients||Lots Of Additional Ingredients|
|Relatively Thick||Thinner Consistency|
Let’s take more of a look into why these differences matter.
Uncooked (Or At Least Not Cooked For Long) – You want pizza sauce to be uncooked for traditional pizzas in order to get the best flavor. By putting it on whilst it’s uncooked, you’re cooking the sauce as the pizza bakes, allowing the sauce to lose its raw flavor and just be left with that fresh tomato flavor you expect on a good pizza
Although you’d get completely raw sauce for Neapolitan pizzas, you do get lightly cooked sauce for some other types of pizza. Some others will fry off their herbs, spices, garlic, etc., then add their tomatoes and simmer until it thickens slightly (which generally isn’t very long). And technically speaking, canned tomatoes are cooked already to remove their skins, but it’s not simmered down like a pasta sauce.
Pizza sauce is generally made by crushing or processing ingredients together. Common ingredients in pizza sauce are salt, pepper, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and some herbs (and anchovies for extra umami). In my opinion, you get the best results by pulsing the ingredients in a high-speed food processor or immersion blender. This incorporates them all evenly and gives you a smooth sauce that’s easy to spread.
Very Basic Ingredients – When you break a traditional pizza down into its individually components, everything is very simple. You’ve got dough that’s made of just flour, water, salt and yeast. You’ve got some fresh mozzarella and some basil. In between these two, you’ve got the most simple, uncooked tomato sauce.
It’s amazing how these simple ingredients can come together to form something that’s so delicious.
Of course, the majority of pizzas you get now have more ingredients added to them, whether it’s adding oil to the pizza dough, or loading it with plenty of toppings. Either way, you don’t want the pizza sauce to be too complicated or you’ll just have too much going on for your tastebuds to really appreciate it.
Relatively Thick – You want something that’s thin enough to spread, but not so thick that it clumps up on the dough. Too thin and it may spread well, but very thinly. Too much of a thin sauce and you’ll make it wet. Too thick and you’ll have too much sauce on the pizza base by the time it’s evenly coated.
The thickness of the sauce can be controlled by using a fine mesh strainer. Simply take your can of whole tomatoes, crush or blend them, then pass them through the strainer to allowed the excess water to fall through. From here, you can add the thicker parts into a bowl, then add the seasonings and some of the tomato water to thin it out if neccessary.
Cooked For A Long Time – Since the sauce is generally the star of the show when eating pasta, you want it to have a complex flavor. This complexity is developed by cooking it for a few hours, which is obviously quite a bit longer than pizza sauce.
This long cooking time completely eliminates that fresh flavor you get with pizza sauce, so you’re just left with a sauce that has a mellowed-out caramelized tomato flavor instead.
Lots Of Additional Ingredients – Pasta sauce needs to have plenty of flavor for it to make a satisfying pasta dish, and this is done by adding plenty of extra ingredients. Whether it’s fresh herbs, dried herbs, chili, anchovies, cheese, fish sauce (you read that right. It brings more umami to the sauce), it’s all going to add to the sauce’s flavor.
This turns a simple tomato sauce into something a lot more robust and fit for heavier applications, like pasta.
You want this with pasta sauce since it’s the main thing you’re tasting in a lot of pasta dishes. When you eat pizza, you want to taste all the ingredients in harmony with every bite rather than mainly tasting the sauce.
In my opinion, these extra ingredients make the most obvious difference between most pasta sauce and pizza sauce since they change the flavor so much.
Thinner Consistency – Now, this isn’t always the case, but a lot of basic pasta sauces are thinner than pizza sauce so they can coat the pasta more effectively.
This thinner consistency is more useful for completely coating the pasta and is often thickened using the starch from both the pasta and the pasta water.
Pasta sauce consistency does vary a lot depending on the dish, but this is completely fine since you don’t need to worry about it making the pasta soggy like it would with a pizza base.
Why Pizza Sauce Is Best
There’s a good reason why pizza places make pizza sauce specifically, rather than just using any old pasta sauce. It’s because it tastes better.
You won’t find any self-respecting pizza place using pasta sauce on their pizzas, because you don’t get a balanced flavor and it’s less enjoyable (some people may like this pasta sauce taste though).
Tomato sauce with basic ingredients that’s either completely raw or partially cooked is ideal for pizza. This style of sauce gives the pizza a fresh tomato flavor, unlike the mellowed-out tomato flavor you get from a pasta sauce.
Traditional pizza contains very basic, raw ingredients (dough, sauce, cheese). Since these are all uncooked, they’ll all cook together, creating a fresh and tasty pizza. If you were to use pasta sauce on the pizza, you’re then cooking the sauce again. This double-cooked sauce has a deeper and more intense flavor, which may overwhelm your tastebuds.
The idea behind classic pizza is to taste each ingredient for what it is. The dough, sauce, cheese, and whatever extra toppings all need to be tasted with each bite, but this can’t happen with a more complex, flavor-packed tomato pasta sauce.
Whether you use pizza sauce or pasta sauce is up to you, but you are missing some of the great pizza experience if you use pasta sauce,
For ease, pasta sauce is very useful and ideal if you’re also using shop-bought pizza dough, but if you’re going through the effort of making pizza dough at home, then you can spare some extra time to make the pizza sauce. It can take you as little as 5 minutes to make a basic pizza sauce using a blender or food processor, so you should just do it.