The Controversial Tomato Sauce Ingredient Michael Symon Skips

basic tomato sauce should be in every cook's arsenal of go-to recipes. Whether you make shakshuka for brunch or simple spaghetti with tomato sauce for the kiddos, this sauce will be a key component. Its ingredients are kind of set in stone: Extra virgin olive oil, onion, garlic, canned tomatoes, basil, sugar, salt, and pepper. However, chef Michael Symon stirred the pot when he shared his recipe for tomato sauce on Instagram, revealing he doesn't use sugar. Symon explained that you don't need this sweetener, noting, "My grandmother never did it. My mom never did it. I never do it. And our tomato sauce is delicious."

How will this sweet omission affect your result? Sugar's purpose is to balance the acidity. It doesn't take much to bring about that balance and ensure your sauce isn't tangy or sour, but whether or not you need it may depend on the type of tomatoes you use. Fresh tomatoes will be at their sweetest during peak season, but if you use canned tomatoes, you want to use a quality canned tomato for your sauce. Symon told the Rachael Ray Show, "When it's not tomato season, I live by good-quality canned San Marzano tomatoes, the next best thing." 

Michael Symon uses butter in his tomato sauce

While he may not use sugar, Michael Symon does use a different ingredient to stave off that biting acidity — he adds butter to his tomato sauce. While this addition did cause a bit of a spirited conversation in the comments of his Instagram post, butter is not as weird an addition as it might sound. This creamy ingredient serves two very important roles in your sauce. First, the milk fats in butter will add a sweetness to your sauce to even out the acidity, and secondly, the butter will give the texture a rich, lush taste in your mouth. To further thicken his tomato sauce, Symon throws in a parmesan rind. This adds a salty and nutty flavor that will separate your tomato sauce from all the rest. Symon finishes his sauce with a sprinkling of chili peppers to round out the flavor and give it a little heat.

If you like the idea of skipping the sugar but still need a little more sweetness for your sauce, try using carrots. Carrots are naturally sweet and can amplify the flavor and cut the acidity of your tomato sauce. Of course, if you are afraid that someone might make fun of you for adding this seemingly nontraditional ingredient to your sauce, don't be. Chop them finely, and they will blend in with the minced onions and garlic, or puree them, and no one will be the wiser.