Peak-season tomatoes need nothing more than salt, pepper, and maybe a drizzle of olive oil to really shine. Why then, do fresh tomato sauce recipes have you peel, core, seed, and otherwise maul such a beautiful ingredient?
As it turns out, peeling and seeding tomatoes for sauce isn’t just a tedious bore; according to Cook’s Illustrated, it’s actively detrimental to the finished product. This is because the skin, flesh, and gel-like “guts” that surround the seeds each contain different distributions of the aromatic compounds that make ripe tomatoes taste so amazing.
Discarding the peels and dumping seeds down the sink makes for a smooth sauce, but most of what you’re discarding is flavour. This goes double for the guts, which are the only part of the tomato that contains umami compounds. In retrospect, that’s incredibly obvious: the mealy, pale pink slabs we pick off burgers in January have a distinct lack of juiciness, while ripe tomatoes are so jam-packed full of delicious jelly that they feel like water balloons ready to burst.
Even if you prefer the texture of seedless tomato sauce, it just doesn’t make sense to throw the tastiest part out with the seeds. Cook’s Illustrated has a best-of-both-worlds approach that involves straining the guts over a bowl to catch all that umami-rich jelly, which you then stir into the sauce before serving to maximise that fresh tomato flavour. That sounds lovely, but if you’ve avoided making fresh tomato sauce because you’re lazy as hell, just leave the seeds in — your sauce will taste better for it.