Punch Up The Flavor Of Your Classic Tomato Sauce With A Drop Of Miso Paste

cast iron pan of tomato sauce on table
cast iron pan of tomato sauce on table - Carlosgaw/Getty Images

Tomato sauce is one of those recipes that is deceptively simple. You don't need a lot of ingredients to get from point A (raw ingredients) to point B (sauce); just tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and spices. But unfortunately, a lot of tomato sauce ends up tasting a little one-note. The secret to complex marinara or spaghetti sauce is to build flavor, and if you have a tub of miso paste in your refrigerator you can take a little shortcut.

You probably already know that human taste buds can detect five flavors; sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. Well-made tomato sauce already has all of these elements to some degree, but it can be a little tough to get enough umami, (which tastes savory) especially if your sauce is only cooked for a short period of time. You don't need to stand over your sauce as it bubbles on the stove for hours to get all that umami goodness, however. Miso is packed with naturally occurring amino acids, which are rich in umami, and the taste of miso melds very well with tomatoes. All you have to do is melt a teaspoon or two into your pot of tomatoes and you'll have a sauce that'll really shine.

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Miso Works Well With Tomatoes

bowl of miso paste on counter
bowl of miso paste on counter - Evgeniy Lee/Shutterstock

Most people know about miso because it makes an easy, tasty soup when it's dissolved in hot water and served with sliced scallions and some diced tofu. This Japanese fermented bean paste is much more versatile, however than as a soup base. Much like parmesan cheese, it's salty and savory and has a rich, complex flavor that is developed over many months of aging. It's filled with naturally-occurring glutamate, which is an amino acid that makes food taste meaty even when there's no meat (mushrooms, for example, also have lots of glutamate). It has an earthy, salty flavor that's reminiscent of (again) parmesan cheese, or anchovy paste without the fishiness, and it's a great flavor enhancer for salad dressing, meat glazes, and all kinds of sauces, including tomato.

Miso plays especially well with tomatoes because it won't overpower the natural flavor of the fruit, and it will bring a richness to the sauce that will make it taste like it's been simmered for hours. If you want to try it in your next batch of tomato sauce, try adding a teaspoon or so to the onions and garlic when you're sweating your vegetables. You can also dissolve a little bit of miso paste into balsamic vinegar and add them in together.

When To Add The Miso

ladeling tomato sauce from a pot
ladeling tomato sauce from a pot - Nito100/Getty Images

It's best to add the miso to your tomato sauce at the beginning of the cooking process so that all the sauce's flavors have a chance to meld together. If you add it at the end, the miso might just come off as salty. That's not to say that you can't add miso at any time, just be sure to let the sauce simmer for at least a few minutes to let the flavors mingle.

You can also use miso to amp up a boring store-bought sauce. Just dissolve a teaspoon or two in some water or cooking stock and stir it in, then let it simmer for a few minutes and give it a taste. Experimenting with store-bought sauce is also a fun way to play with adding miso because the stakes are low and you don't have to worry about wasting any hard work on making a whole pot of sauce. Take two half-cup samples of store-bought sauce, add some miso to one sample, and then taste the two side by side to see the difference. Keep in mind that sauce from the store will almost always have a lot more salt than homemade sauce, however, so go sparingly on the miso. When you get a feel for how miso can liven up tomato sauce, you can scale it up into your next batch of crock pot marinara.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.