The Unexpected Tool Scott Conant Uses For Tomato Sauce

For some recipes, no matter how simple, a special tool is necessary to get the job done. Without a whisk it'll take you forever to make whipped cream, you can't make muffins without a muffin tin, and it's hard to flip pancakes without a spatula. For Scott Conant, the same principle applies to tomato sauce. The celebrity chef and restaurateur shared with Serious Eats that when it comes to making tomato sauce from scratch, a potato masher is a must. The off-kilter technique is one he actually learned long before he opened his famous Scarpetta restaurants around the U.S. "I never saw anyone making mashed potatoes in my house," Conant told Serious Eats. "But we always had a potato masher. And that's how my mother and grandmother would make the tomato sauce."

If you've ever made tomato sauce at home, there's a good chance your recipe called for the use of an immersion blender. While this does a good job in making a sauce nice and smooth, according to Bon Appétit, it also aerates the tomatoes and causes them to turn orange. A potato masher however tenderizes the tomatoes while still preserving their integrity.

How to use a potato masher for tomato sauce

Potato mashers are typically used when the potatoes are already done cooking, but for tomatoes, the tool comes into play earlier on in the cooking process. As per Conant's instructions in Serious Eats, the first step is to drizzle some extra virgin olive oil into a pot, and let it heat up but not to the point that it's smoking. That's when you'll add the fresh tomatoes, which should already be seeded, halved, and split. Sprinkle on some salt, and go right in with the potato masher. As the tomatoes heat up and cook, the mashing action will allow them to break down and eventually form a smooth sauce — no immersion blender necessary.

Most people already have a potato masher at home, but if you want results that compare to Conant's, you'll need the right type of potato masher. Some have perforations, others are grid-shaped, but both Serious Eats and Bon Appétit recommend a zig zag-shaped wire masher. If you don't already have one, it'll come in handy for both mashed potatoes and tomato sauce.