Provençale Sauce

Provençale sauce
Bernd Geh/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images
Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 25 mins
Total: 30 mins
Servings: 16 servings

The classic French tomato sauce, a specialty from Provence, is made with sautéed onions, garlic, capers, olives, and herbes de Provence, which gives it a distinct Mediterranean flavor. The sauce is served with meat, poultry, and fish, and used in French dishes such as as oeufs à la provençale (eggs in tomato sauce Provence style). 

This recipe calls for 1 quart of classic tomato sauce, one of the five so-called mother sauces of the French culinary arts (the other four being béchamel, velouté, espagnole, and hollandaise sauce). The preparation of this sauce is more complicated than the familiar basic tomato sauce that is commonly served with pasta. French tomato sauce is made with salt pork, veal or chicken stock, and a ham bone, so the original recipe is not vegetarian. Instead of making your own classic tomato sauce, you can use 1 quart of basic tomato pasta sauce. It is easier to make and is meat free. 

The other more unusual ingredient in this sauce is tomato concassé. What sounds like a fancy French culinary term is nothing but tomatoes that have been peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped. When tomatoes are in season, abundant, and flavorful, by all means, use fresh tomatoes to make your own tomato concassé. During the rest of the year, when you cannot get good fresh tomatoes, you can use canned whole peeled tomatoes, which usually contain seeds. To remove the seeds, break open the whole tomatoes to release the juice seeds and strain the liquid through a fine sieve. Discard the seeds. Using canned diced tomatoes is not a good option because it is difficult to remove all the seeds. 

The cooking time of this sauce is only 25 minutes. This is not a tomato sauce that is simmered for long and reduced much, and it makes the use of fully ripe, flavorful tomatoes all the more important. Using watery tomatoes will yield a disappointing result: a thin sauce that lacks flavor. 

The other key ingredient in this recipe is herbes de Provence, the popular French herb blend. You can either buy it ready-made or mix your own from dried oregano, thyme, savory, basil, and sage. The addition of culinary lavender to the herb blend is optional. Opinions are divided whether lavender belongs in herbes de Provence or not. Whichever type of herbes de Provence you use, this French tomato sauce made from scratch is delicious.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onions

  • 2 cups tomato concassé

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • 2 teaspoons herbes de Provence

  • 1 quart tomato sauce

  • 2 tablespoons capers

  • 2 tablespoons chopped black olives

  • Kosher salt, to taste

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, sauté onions until they're translucent, about 5 minutes.​

  3. Add tomato concassé, garlic, and herbes de Provence. Continue to sauté until tomatoes are soft, about 10 minutes.​

  4. Add tomato sauce, capers, and olives; and bring to a simmer and reduce for about 10 minutes.​

  5. Season with salt and pepper, and serve right away.

Makes about 1 quart of Provençale sauce.