Pizza Sauce 101

Ok, I need some more help guys. As I’ve mentioned in another thread, we’re getting new menus and I’m totally re-evaluating our perception, quality, image etc. I’m wondering what we should do with our sauce.

Heres the story… We’re using a long time family sauce recipe (a special blend of over 10 different fine herbs and spices) and we wanted to duplicate that for our customers. My dad has been using this one company for well over 20 years. Well, since it was for home use, he only bought it from the grocery store as he needed it, they only sold 15 oz cans.

Before we opened here, we contacted the company to see if they can make the same sauce in a restaurant size quantity. But they dont, so we were able to buy the 15 oz cans straight from the source (versus buying from a grocer) and we also got 3 other samples for their 10# pizza sauce. They weren’t exact products. They were good, but my dad could not stand the thought of changing the recipe.

I know I read somewhere, I think from The DD, saying that grocery store bought is different from restaurant grade sauce. Well I thought the same thing, but I compared ingredients and the 15 oz cans are almost identical to the #10 can samples. They are ALL (even the 15 oz cans) NATURAL with NO FILLERS. The only difference between them is the size of the can, the texture and taste. For whatever reasons (he said something about different lots and/or machinery for packaging), you can get the same EXACT product they put into the 15 oz cans into the #10 cans.

So yesterday, I made 3 batches of sauce with our blend of spices using the 3 new samples. Then I made 3 sausage pizzas with the different sauces and 1 with our current sauce. Out of the 5 people (all tested separately), everyone chose the same exact way… Our current sauce is better than the new 3. The second best was pretty good, just a little different.

One of the samples was fresh pack tomatoes, and it was chosen last by all 5 people. Go figure. But I still remind you, all sauces are all natural products with no fillers.

So what do we do? Do we go the fresh packed tomatoes cause thats the best route? The small 15 oz cans that we use now tastes the best but are costing us approx .02 more per ounce, which translates to approx .08 - .12 per pie. Not to mention the time consuming of opening 15 oz cans lol…

I’m torn. I was hoping someone could help with some suggestions, or tell me what the difference between fresh packed tomatoes and the sauce we’re using now that is all natural with no fillers.

Thanks guys.

Seriously - call the folks @ Stanislaus & get their 2 cents…

I’ve personally used a wide variety of products from many sources…

Pick a fresh pack sauce - tweak your spices (we use very few) and make a new “enforceable” standard recipe that will serve you for years to come…

You can make a new sauce every few days & have the same 5 people taste it & get varied responses…

I love the Stanislaus people. We use 3 of their products for our marinara and chunky tomato sauce for the deep dishes. Its great stuff, and they’re truly great people.

We just did not like their line of pizza sauce to be honest. Wasn’t a big fan of the taste and texture of it.


I am not sure if this apply’s directly to what you are doing. However, I question if you are not comparing one mediocre product to another mediocre product. I know my wife made some Lasagna last week and used Escalon marinara sauce we were given as a sample and it clearly was better than any thing we have ever used from the grocery store. I was actually surprised as to how much better it was and it showed me that if you have a "better or true restaurant grade product than it is much different than what you purchase at a supermarket. If you have a company that simply changes the size of the package than I would think you are just looking at the wrong producer to start with.

Did you ever try blending thier sauces It seems that a widely used mix is thier 7/11 and Full Red sauce.

I’ve worked for Stanislaus for twenty years. The two main differences between “fresh packed” tomato products and “from concentrate” tomato products are flavor and cost. Tomato products “packed from fresh tomatoes” have superior tomato flavor because they are made directly from fresh tomatoes with minimal processing heat, but cost more to make than sauces “Re-Manufactured from tomato concentrate”. (The reason that most jarred supermarket spaghetti sauces don’t taste like tomatoes is that they are nearly all Re-Manufactured from industrial strength tomato concentrate and water.)

Most Independents prefer “fresh packed” tomato products because their success depends on attracting customers with the best tasting food. Fresh packed products make their sauce taste more like fresh tomatoes, and the cost difference between fresh packed products and cheaper Re-Manufactured ones typically works out to a penny or two per pie.

Additionally, most Independents I have met also prefer to stick to a tried and true family recipe. However, keep in mind that your family recipe will taste its best when you start with the most flavorful ingredients. Also, because sauce consistency drives pizza baking consistency in the oven, avoid packers whose products are known to vary from lot to lot. By definition, premium quality tomato products should look, smell, and taste identical, day after day, can after can, year after year.

I hope this has been helpful. If you have additional questions about tomato products, feel free to call me at (800) 328-8667 M-F 8-5 Pacific time.

Good luck!
Steve Rouse
Stanislaus Food Products

So why do they market that all their sauces are all natural with no fillers/preservatives? Isn’t all natural still good for you?

The reason we like this company is b/c they fit the perfect flavor profile we are looking for.

We blend their Super Dolce & their Tomato Magic, 50/50, with fresh chopped garlic, basil, black pepper & more secret spices

Can’t imagine your sauce is any better - different, yes, better? thats a decision your customers make…

Simply changing the tomato product in a sauce recipe will not produce a superior sauce. I would suspect that the spices/herbs overwhelmed the fresh pack tomato since it was formulated to deal with the original uber-cooked tomato sauce base. If I put my spice blend into a Hunt’s product, any concentrate-based product, the sauce would not be anywhere near what mine tastes like. The balance will be completely wrong. At the very least, I would need to add sugar and a little acid of some sort to brighten the tomato flavor. You use some sugar in your sauce, right?

Another difference in the 15oz versus #10 can may be the results of processing. Think about surface area to mass ratios and the heat used in processing. So much more tomato gets more heat in the smaller cans. Different flavors from different compounds created & destroyed in processing.

You really can use the same spice/herbs from the family recipe. You can even keep them in the same order of weight. You will just need to adjust a little the amounts to balance the flavors out.

FINALLY, just because two products have the same ingredients list in the same order . . . does not mean they are the same ratio in the sauce. Oregano could be higher proportion, but in the same rder on the list, for example. Plus the whole different mass issue in processing and delicates being broken down and sugars being made into complex compounds during the Maillard Reactions.

Nope, no sugar, it is not needed. The sauce we get now is a pizza sauce, not just a regular tomato paste/base.

How do you tell if its concentrated? Just because it doesn’t say “fresh packed tomatoes”?

Heres what the can says

“All Natural - Low Fat - No Additives”

“An Award Winning Recipe - Wins Monde World Selection for the second time!”

“… A gold medal winner for best quality pizza sauce again. This award presented only to the highest quality food products is recognized worldwide as a mark of excellence. Specialty ingredients like San Marzano style tomatoes, Pecorino Ramano cheese, special grade Extra V-irgin Olive Oil, all compliment our traditional blend of Italian spices to produce this award winning recipe. As we say “If mother nature does not produce it, we will not use it”.”

Woah… cant say V-irgin lol

Been Using Stanislaus for 10 Years. I will never change.

Steve is this the sauce you are using?..

If not is one of the ingredients “tomato puree”?..And if so, I am wondering if that is another way to list tomato concentrate…

steve here’s my 2 cents on stanislas…I was having issues with my suace and the blend… I went to the pizza show and spent an hour explaining to them…going over the way I prepare it and my blend of seasonings… then we spent another hour getting exaxtly the way we like it…i will say this I think they care about there product. I think they geniuinly care how there product blends with your profile…I couldn’t imagine using 15 oz cans you are making my wrist hurt just by thinking of opening that many cans…

I am out of my depth in discussing fully prepared sauces. Pre-seasoned and manufactured means there will be variations in lots. Then the whole size of can issue is even more magnified when you start talking about heating a load of seasonings along with the sauce. I can see some of what the variation is in the 15oz versus #10. It will be pretty challenging to recreate the flavor profile of a prepared sauce without some previous experience and a discerning palate. I’ve done it with other recipes, and it can be a beast if there is a ‘wildcard’ in there like cinnamon or grains of paradise.

You can probably bet that manucatured using California 'maters, they’d stamp “Fresh Packed” all over it if they could. AND you’ll notice that the Pastorelli’s does have fresh packed on the label. Check your label to see if it is somewhere. Otherwise, you got reconstituted concentrate.

Very good information guys. This is what I’m looking for.

But basically it boils down to quality (fresh packed) vs. taste (my current sauce)?

If we went the fresh packed route (with tons of tweaking), would that be better for marketing and customer approval purposes?

I want to do whats smart here. 15 oz cans will be impractical when we get busy and I want to give the customer the best quality and taste possible.

Decisions decisions.

Thanks again for the help!


Help me out here…Is this sauce basically off the shelve grocery store stuff ?..If so forget about any chance of it being consistent…Why not work with a company you know whose commitment is to make the best, most consistent product available…It seems like you would be leaving yourself very venerable to rely on a company whose interest is scratted in several directions…

Just a wild thought . . . . did you ever track down whether food taste was an issue? If memory serves, you had some customers proclaiming they were wowed by food then very small overall proportion of new customers being returning customers. It is very possible in the bigger picture that the family sauce recipe is hindering business anyway. I am not saying it is definitely so, just making sure it was something checked out and considered in this process.

I do believe the above is also a false dichotomy. Quality and taste are not opposed here. It is quality/recipe development versus operator preference for current sauce flavor profile. Fresh pack could be a marketing edge. Creating our own sauce from fresh pack tomatoes is something we make sure customers know about. Remember The goal is to find a sauce that customers like and will consistently pay money for. It could be ketchup and oregano as long as you can draw enough customers and have them pay for enough pizza. The rest is sentimental and emotional funk that we all get tied up into. It is probably tougher to draw customers with ketchup and oregano, though :wink:

Steve without knowing anything about your presently used tomato product, keep in mind that a remanufactured tomato product will look the same on the label as a fresh pack tomato product. The ingredients can be the same, but the method of manufacture can be VERY different, resulting in a totally different end product. Since a fresh pack was the least liked in your test, it just might be that your favored product is a remanufactured product, such as Contadina sauce. The color generally gives it away since the reman product has a very deep, dark red color, whereas a fresh pack has a much lighter, more natural tomato color.
If this is the case, concentrate your efforts at looking for a reman product.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

Yes, basically. But the company we use does pride themselves in using the best (other than fresh packed). I’m not sure what you mean about the consistency, but we’ve been open for over 6 months and I have not seen the slightest hint of inconsistency with the sauce.

Nick - I hear what you’re saying loud and clear. Although, before we opened, I grabbed about 30 different menus from the area and I don’t recall a single one of them mentioning they use fresh packed tomaters. Go figure. But now I’m wondering how does the general public know what the difference between a remanufactured product vs. a fresh packed tomato product other than the wording? Before I opened this place, I had no clue what the difference was and I bet you if I asked 10 consumers not one of them would know the difference.

I guess this is going to be a long tedious journey. I have no clue what I am going to do.

But thanks again for the input guys. As always its much appreciated.

Steve it is hard to look long term when short term is required to eat and pay the rent…But this must be a long term plan…

And I wonder if it would be best to sell the “sizzle” rather than pizza…When I think of what I see in Stanislaus’ marketing material, the fact they sell canned products seems to take a back seat to the fact they sell quality…

And I think the illustration of how they process their products versus “re-canned” stuff should give you some great ideas…I have some clients that use images of fresh ingredients on their magnets versus images of pizza…It conveys a way different message…