Do You Have To Peel Tomatoes Before Making Pasta Sauce?

Cooking with fresh produce can be a labor of love. After all, you can simply open a few cans and have enough tomatoes to make a cauldron of sauce. But when those summer tomatoes come in (and keep coming and coming), it's a shame not to use such beauties while they're at their peak. When your menu features tomatoes in a starring role, as in a luxurious heirloom tomato sauce, you want them to show their best.

That said, we all know there are steps you can skip and those you can't. Time-saving shortcuts, like slicing handfuls of cherry tomatoes all at once, can let busy cooks focus on the more involved steps that really matter. Many recipes for homemade tomato sauce call for peeling tomatoes before you add them to the sauce. Is that a step you can skip? Does it really matter if you peel your beautiful tomatoes before you transform them into a fresh tomato sauce?

Peeling tomatoes is worth the effort

Yes, it's worth peeling tomatoes before you make them into pasta sauce. AllRecipes says that removing tomato skins will make your sauce both smoother and sweeter. And chef Simon Hopkinson (via The Guardian) says tomatoes should always be peeled for dishes in which texture matters. Hopkinson explains, "If you're adding coarsely chopped tomato to a stew or vegetable medley — ratatouille or caponata, say — not to skin would be foolish, because those horrid little curled tomato skin 'needles' will be riddled throughout the dish." Nobody wants needles of tomato skin in their sauce!

And peeling tomatoes for sauce isn't difficult. AllRecipes says to score the tomatoes at the bottom with an X, plunge the tomatoes in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then place in an ice bath to stop the cooking. Peels should slide right off. Simon Hopkinson forgoes the ice bath and simply peels the tomatoes under cold running water, making the process a bit quicker. Whether you're processing tomatoes for sauce or for canning, peeling them improves both the texture and the flavor of your tomatoes and the finished dish.