A staple of Italian cooking and a valuable source of vitamin C, tomato sauce provides a basis for dishes across the world. But tomatoes contain ascorbic acid, which can contribute to stomach discomfort and bitter taste, causing home chefs to search for ways to reduce acidity in tomato sauce.
Read more: 7 Healthier Pizza Recipes to Make at Home
Cut Acidity in Tomato Sauce
To cut acidity in tomato sauce, you can try these simple tricks for your next Italian home-cooked entrée, allowing you to end your meal with tiramisu rather than a roll of antacids.
Ingredients and Equipment Needed
- Fresh tomatoes
- Olive oil
- White sugar
- Baking soda
- Put a large pot over the stovetop and add in fresh chopped tomatoes. Although tomatoes are considered "high acid" vegetables, according to the National Center of Home Food Preservation, some tomatoes are now known to have a pH value a little higher than 4.6 that are naturally lower in acid.
- Place a small amount of olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. A March 2018 study from the International Journal of Molecular Sciences found that the plant polyphenols in olive oil promote anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, a March 2016 study from Nutrients found that tomato sauce with olive oil has greater effects on cardiovascular disease than sauces cooked without it.
- Add thinly sliced sweet onions to this skillet. Look for sweet onion varieties, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla. The Cleveland Clinic even recommends onions for those with gastroparesis, a digestive disorder that can cause acid reflux. Cook the sliced onions, stirring occasionally. Add these vegetables into your sauce.
- Add a
small amount of white sugar to the sauce and stir well. Sugar can alter the acidic taste, leaving your favorite sauce not only
flavorful but easy on the stomach.
- Taste your sauce and add more sugar if necessary. As an alternative, you may add fresh grated or whole carrots. As they cook in the sauce, the natural sugars release, helping remove acidic bitterness. You may leave the carrots in the sauce or pour the sauce through a colander to remove. Using fresh ingredients is best for low-acid tomato sauce.
- Simmer your sauce for no longer than 1 1/2 hours. The longer you simmer the sauce, the more moisture evaporates and the more concentrated the tomatoes become.
- Remove the sauce from heat and let sit for 40 minutes.
- Add a pinch of baking soda. Expect to see slight bubbling as the baking soda neutralizes the acid. According to the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research, baking soda is commonly accepted among health professionals to provide temporary relief of acid reflux. You also find baking soda as an ingredient in over-the-counter heartburn medications.
- Take off the heat.
Dress Your Tomato Sauce
After creating the tomato sauce to your liking, you can try adding the following ingredients to bump up your finished product into a professional-level masterpiece:
- Avoid adding red pepper flakes or any type of spice, as that could cause an upset stomach. Instead, try fresh or dried herbs. According to a March 2019 study from the Journal of AOAC International, herbs can not only enhance the flavors of food, but they can protect from chronic diseases and provide a healthy dose of antioxidants.
- As milk can aid with digestive issues, sprinkle milk mozzarella cheese over the sauce. Look for part-skim milk mozzarella cheese instead of using whole milk mozzarella cheese to make the sauce healthier, per the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
- You can also stir in heavy cream to make a tomato cream sauce. The NHLBI recommends substituting imitation cream made with non-fat or reduced-fat milk instead of heavy cream.
- National Center for Home Food Preservation: "General Canning Information"
- International Journal of Molecular Sciences: "Potential Health Benefits of Olive Oil and Plant Polyphenols"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Diet for Gastroparesis"
- Canadian Society of Intestinal Research: "Baking Soda for Heartburn"
- Journal of AOAC International: "Health Benefits of Culinary Herbs and Spices"
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: “Low-Calorie, Lower Fat Alternative Foods”
- Nutrients: "Tomato Sauce Enriched with Olive Oil Exerts Greater Effects on Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors than Raw Tomato and Tomato Sauce: A Randomized Trial"