Tomato & tomatillo Sauces - intro

Tomatoes and tomatillos hail from Central and South America and were cultivated there long before the first Europeans set foot on the continent.

This category gathers my recipes for tomatillos, green tomatoes, and red tomatoes. Any tomato recipe can be prepared as a green tomato or tomatillo equivalent, and the other way around. All are eaten raw and  cooked into a multitude of soups, sauces and other dishes.

1. Tomatillos


The tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica and Physalis ixocarpa), also known as the Mexican husk tomato, is a plant of the nightshade family bearing small, spherical and green or green-purple fruit of the same name. Tomatillos originated in Mexico and were cultivated in the pre-Columbian era. A staple of Mexican cuisine, they are eaten raw or cooked in a variety of dishes, particularly salsa verde.

I know very well that tomatillos are NOT tomatoes. But they are close enough cousins that their culinary uses overlap. Tomatillos can also be mixed with green or red tomatoes for more acidic dishes.

2. green tomatoes

Green tomatoes are tomatoes that have been harvested before fully ripened. I had to do that here in Deming, NM every year to keep them from freezing. If you spread them out in a cool room, they do eventually ripen off the vine with hardly any losses.

Best-known recipes in the US are fried green tomatoes and green salsa.

In the Yucatan area in Mexico, the word tomates specifically refers to green tomatoes, while the red ones are called jitomates. Both tomate and jitomate come from the Nahuatl (Aztec) word xiltomatl. The distinction still exists in the Majan-speaking Yucatan, but did not survive in northern Mexico or in the translation to English.

3. red tomatoes

These are the big-red sauces. Tomato sauce in all its varieties may well be the most used kitchen recipe worldwide. They all start with a basic tomato sauce = simmered-down tomatoes, although many recipes will add other things right from the start..

Every country makes tomato sauce in their own way and they have many more uses than just pizzas and pastas. Tomato sauces are just as essential for meat and seafood dishes.  

It is so easy to open a can of tomatoes, but if you have access to organic or home-grown tomatoes, it is definitely better for your health. Store-bought or canned tomatoes usually have been sprayed with pesticides, up to and even right before harvest.

Heirloom tomatoes taste so much better than the farm- or greenhouse-grown varieties that have been selected for firmness and longer shelf-life instead of flavor.

I do not like to use flour to thicken tomato sauce. To me, starches give the sauce an unpleasant flour taste. I prefer to simmer them down instead.

4. Europe

When tomatoes finally arrived in Europe, they were enthusiastically adopted into the various country traditions and eventually became representative for the Italian kitchen.

The French didn't ignore tomatoes, but shoehorned them into their existing system of elaborate roux-based emulsion sauces. They managed to turn even tomatoes into a starch-thickened sauce which imo does not benefit it at all. The French cuisine isn't very fond of tomato sauces, as evidenced by the dearth of derivative tomato sauces compared to the hundreds of roux-based sauces.


Pic1: tomato sauce and derivatives in French cuisine
internet picture

See French-style tomato sauces for the detailed recipes.