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Cooking

A cook’s tomato tour

Spice up your repertoire with sauce ideas from around the world.

Spicy Spanish-style sauce is flavored with paprika, cumin, and sherry.

Photograph by Jim Scherer / Styling by Catrine Kelty

Spicy Spanish-style sauce is flavored with paprika, cumin, and sherry.

SPANISH-STYLE SPICY TOMATO SAUCE

Makes about 2 cups

This sauce often accompanies patates bravas, a tapas dish of crisp fried potatoes. It’s also great with chicken and fish.

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

½ red bell pepper, chopped

Salt and black pepper

4 garlic cloves, minced

1½ teaspoons paprika

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

1/3 cup amontillado sherry

1 teaspoon sugar

1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

In a strainer set over a medium bowl, drain the tomatoes; reserve the liquid.

Continue reading below

In a very large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until drier and just starting to brown, about 9 minutes. Adjust the heat to medium, add the onion, bell pepper, and ½ teaspoon of salt, and saute until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, paprika, red pepper flakes, and cumin, and saute until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Stir in the sherry and cook until reduced by about half, about 5 minutes. Add 1¼ cups of the reserved tomato liquid and the sugar, bring to a strong simmer, readjust heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Add ½ teaspoon salt (or to taste) and black pepper to taste. Stir in parsley and serve.

NORTH AFRICAN-STYLE TOMATO SAUCE

Makes about 3 cups

This commonly dresses simply prepared fish.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

Salt and black pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

¼ teaspoon crushed

red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 28-ounce can petite-diced tomatoes

1½ teaspoons sugar

¼ teaspoon crushed saffron threads

3 scallions, thinly sliced (about ¼ cup)

In a very large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and ½ teaspoon of salt, and saute until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, and tomato paste, and saute until fragrant, about 40 seconds. Add the tomatoes and sugar, bring to a strong simmer, readjust heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 7 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix the saffron with 2 tablespoons hot water. Stir the saffron water into the sauce, and cook for 2 minutes longer. Stir in ¾ teaspoon salt (or to taste), black pepper to taste, and the scallions, and serve.

GREEK-STYLE TOMATO SAUCE

Makes about 3 cups

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

Salt and pepper

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon dried oregano, crushed

1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

2 tablespoons tomato paste

½ cup dry red wine

1 28-ounce can petite-diced tomatoes

1 teaspoon sugar

¼ cup chopped fresh mint

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

In a very large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and ½ teaspoon of salt, and saute until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, cinnamon, allspice, and tomato paste, and saute until fragrant, about 40 seconds. Add the wine, increase the heat to medium-high, and boil until the liquid has reduced and the mixture is pasty, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and sugar, bring to a strong simmer, adjust heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 7 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste, mint, and parsley, and stir to mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary, and serve.

Variation

SPAGHETTI WITH GREEK-STYLE TOMATO AND LAMB SAUCE

Serves 4

Follow the directions for the Greek-style sauce, making the following changes:

1) Reduce the quantity of oil to 2 teaspoons and before cooking the onion, add ¾ pound of ground lamb to the skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Push lamb to one side of pan, tilt pan, and spoon out all but 1 tablespoon of fat. Add the onion and salt and saute until softened, about 4 minutes; continue with the garlic, oregano, cinnamon, allspice, and tomato paste.

2) Substitute crushed tomatoes (28 ounces) for the diced tomatoes. Increase the simmering time to about 10 minutes and increase the 1 teaspoon salt to 1½ teaspoons.

3) Meanwhile, cook 1 pound spaghetti or thin linguine in well-salted boiling water. Reserve about ½ cup cooking water, drain the spaghetti, return it to pot, add the sauce, and stir, over medium heat, for 1½ minutes. If necessary, add enough cooking water to help sauce distribute evenly. Add 1 cup crumbled feta, the mint, parsley, and 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, and toss to distribute. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, and serve at once.

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