We Made Julia Child’s Tomato Sauce Recipe. Here’s What We Thought.

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In Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child says, "Sauces are the splendor and glory of French cooking, yet there is nothing secret or mysterious about making them."

In 1961, Julia Child brought everyday French cooking to America with her quintessential cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. From simple sauces to boeuf bourguignon, her cookbook is a perfect introduction to French recipes for both beginners and more advanced cooks.

For my first foray into French cooking, I thought I’d start at the beginning and try a simple tomato sauce recipe, which is one of the five mother sauces.

How to Make Julia Child’s Provençale Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup finely minced yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons flour
  • 3 pounds ripe red tomatoes, peeled, seeded, juiced and chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • a medium herb bouquet: 4 parsley sprigs, 1 small bay leaf, 1 sprig (1/4 teaspoon) thyme tied in cheesecloth
  • 1/8 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried basil
  • small pinch saffron
  • small pinch of ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried orange peel granules (or a 1-inch piece of dried orange peel)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Optional: 1 to 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • salt and pepper to taste

Tools You’ll Need

  • 3-Quart Saucepan: Use a high-sided saucepan like this to simmer the sauce—or a Dutch oven, if you have one.
  • Shun Chef’s Knife: This 8″ chef’s knife is a must-have for our Test Kitchen cooks.
  • Wooden SpoonI love wooden spoons because they won’t scratch the bottom of my cookware. Just be sure to keep separate spoons for sweet and savory cooking.

Initial Thoughts

Fresh tomatoes are the star of this sauce! The best time to make this recipe is when tomatoes are at the height of their ripeness during the summer. (Not sure what type of tomatoes to use? This guide explains what to do with each type of tomato.) The best part is that this sauce is perfect for freezing, meaning you can enjoy the flavors of late summer during the height of winter.

Getting Started

The recipe is quite straightforward: fresh tomatoes simmered with onion, garlic and herbs. The most daunting part of this recipe (for me at least), was prepping the tomatoes. Modern recipes get around this step by simply quartering the tomatoes and putting them through the coarse grating blade of a food processor. However, I thought I ought to be authentic to how Julia would do it, so I followed her tomato preparation instructions to a T.

First, blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 10 seconds. Then use a knife to cut out the stem and peel off the skin, starting at the stem hole. To seed and juice the tomatoes, cut each peeled tomato in half crosswise (horizontally) and gently squeeze to remove the seeds and juices from the center of the tomato. Turns out this step, though a little time-consuming, was a lot easier than I thought!

Learn to be a better cook with a handful of lessons from Julia Child.

julia child's provençale tomato sauceSusan Bronson for Taste of Home

Making the Sauce

Once the tomatoes were prepped, the rest of the recipe came together without too much effort. First, I cooked the onions in the olive oil in a three-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the onions were tender. Then I added the flour, and cooked for three minutes. Finally, I stirred in the chopped tomatoes, sugar, garlic, herbs and spices, placed the lid on the pan, and cooked over low heat for 10 minutes. Last but not least, I removed the lid and let the sauce simmer for 30 minutes.

According to Julia, the sauce is done when “it tastes thoroughly cooked and is thick enough to form a mass in the spoon.” At this point, I removed the herb bouquet and stirred in two tablespoons of tomato puree to add a little cover. I gave the sauce a final taste and added some freshly ground pepper for seasoning.

julia child's provençale tomato sauce with cookbookSusan Bronson for Taste of Home

The Final Product

The resulting tomato sauce was absolutely delicious, and an easy way to dip my toe into the world of French cooking. This sauce is quite versatile and Julia suggests using it over chicken, beef, eggs, pizzas and of course, pasta. And, if you’ve made the tomato sauce from scratch, you probably ought to serve it over homemade pasta, right?

I would make this sauce again in a heartbeat! Just as soon as I’m done streaming The French Chef.

Master the Rest of Julia Child’s Recipes

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Susan Bronson
Susan Bronson is a writer and editor based in Northern Wisconsin.