No-cook crushed tomato sauce is just what pan pizza demands

Illustration for article titled No-cook crushed tomato sauce is just what pan pizza demands
Photo: Johnny Autry (Ten Speed Press)

When I set out to bake my first Detroit-style pan pizza, I followed Perfect Pan Pizza author Peter Reinhart’s advice to the letter. I didn’t want my cocky improvisation to be the reason the pie failed. When Reinhart instructed to smoosh cubes of cheese into the dough, I smooshed cubes of cheese into the dough. When he demanded an overnight dough rest, I tucked my dough into the refrigerator for its 12-hour slumber.


But no-cook tomato sauce? I’ll admit I balked a bit. Didn’t I need to heat the pizza sauce to… meld the flavors, or some other cooking cliché? No, Reinhart says.

“My philosophy is that the tomatoes are already cooked once in the can. I don’t believe there’s any reason to cook the sauce again,” he tells me. “I like my sauce flavors to be bright and explosive. I find that people who cook the sauce, it tastes good but doesn’t have that brightness.”

I shouldn’t have doubted the method for a minute. The sauce—just a simple combination of high-quality canned tomatoes, garlic, and fresh herbs—was bright, juicy, flavorful, and just the zippy counterpart that a deep, ultracheesy pan pizza requires. I’ve seen the no-cook light.

Crushed Tomato Pizza Sauce

Makes enough for 4 to 8 pizzas

Some brands of canned tomatoes are more heavily salted than others, so adjust the flavors at the end, according to your taste. You can use crushed tomatoes (sometimes also labeled ground tomatoes), or you can buy canned whole tomatoes and crush them with your hands or grind them in a food processor.


This is my favorite, go-to sauce, as I love the texture of the tomato solids (as opposed to the smooth texture of marinara sauce).

  • One 28-oz. can crushed, ground, or whole tomatoes
  • 1/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried basil, or 2 Tbsp. minced fresh basil
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano, or 1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic, or 2 large garlic cloves, finely minced, plus more as needed
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice, or a combination, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp. kosher salt

In a large bowl, stir together the tomatoes, pepper, basil, oregano, garlic, vinegar, or lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, adding the salt gradually and tasting as you go. Add more vinegar or lemon juice and salt if needed. But be careful, the flavors of the herbs, garlic, and salt will intensify when the pizza is baked, so resist the urge to increase the amount. You can always add more herbs and salt on top of the pizza after it comes out of the oven. Transfer to a covered container, seal tightly, and refrigerate up to 10 days or freeze up to three months.


Reprinted with permission from Perfect Pan Pizza by Peter Reinhart, copyright © 2019. Photographs by Johnny Autry. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc.


Kate Bernot is a freelance writer and a certified beer judge. She was previously managing editor at The Takeout.


Burners Baby Burners: Discussion Inferno

This sounds like it’d taste everything like acidic tomatoes and not really let any other flavor through. When you cook a sauce, you’re including sugar to balance out overpowering flavors, or a base like baking soda to alter the chemistry of the tomatoes; changing the flavor from simple, sharp acidic tomatoes to something richer and more balanced. You want to tone down the acid to bring up the other flavors that the tomatoes offer. I know this mainly from the pizza and marinara sauces, not to mention tomato soups, I’ve screwed up by not including enough stuff to counter the tomatoes.

It seems like to get over that hump, you’d have to use even more herbs and ingredients to carry it, and then the cheese wouldn’t have enough room to bring anything to the flavor party. 

So what am I missing that makes this work?