I am a sucker for all sorts of tasty sauces and pickles, especially fresh and healthy ones like this homemade tomato sauce with fresh tomatoes, garlic and red chili peppers. This spicy tomato and garlic sauce is one of my all-time favorites. Not just with me – my whole family loves it. It goes well with just about anything, from steamed vegetables to meats. I even put it on pasta and dumplings sometimes. Fresh, flavorful and spicy – it just goes. Did I mention it’s also vegan, gluten-free and paleo friendly? This sauce is amazingly flavorful and balanced, but has no sugar, no artificial additives, no oils and no fat in it.
This tomato sauce is a variation of ajika (adjika, adzhika) – a hot, spicy but subtly flavored dip often used to flavor food and originating in north Caucasus. There are dozens or even hundreds of recipes of ajika, ranging from super hot to fairly mild. This recipe, graciously passed down to me by my father-in-law, is on the milder side, but can be made fairly spicy by simply adding an extra chili pepper.
Good ajika sauce must have texture to it, so a blender won’t work. It’s best to use a meat grinder with a 3/16 inch (4.5mm) plate. It is also advisable to first grind tomatoes, chili peppers and garlic, checking for and adjusting spiciness and only then adding salt. Not sure exactly why, but I believe it has to do with salt binding water and preventing proper binding of chili peppers and garlic with tomatoes. If you have a better explanation, let me know.
Ajika is best when the best ingredients are used. So, pick your tomatoes and other ingredients carefully. Organic is recommended. If the sauce turns out too liquid, place it on a fine mesh strainer and strain for 10-15 seconds. You can then add some juice back if needed to reach the desired consistency.
This ajika keeps quite well in a refrigerator, up to two weeks or even longer. If you intend to keep it longer, make it thicker by removing more water and add a little more salt. Less water and more salt equals better protection against spoilage.
- 5 medium tomatoes -1lb / 450g
- 2 red chili peppers (plus more for more spiciness)
- 4-5 garlic cloves
- ½ tsp kosher salt (plus more to taste)
- Prepare your tomatoes and peppers by washing them, removing stems, and removing seeds and membrane from the peppers. Cut tomatoes into quarters. Peel the garlic.
- Run tomatoes, garlic and one chili pepper through a meat grinder fitted with a 3/16 inch (4.5mm) plate. Taste for spiciness. Add the second chili pepper or more as needed.
- Add ½ tsp kosher salt, mix well and taste. You can add more salt at this time, if needed.
- If the sauce is too liquid, place the sauce in a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl and let it drain for about 10-15 seconds. You can add some juice back if needed.
- Place the sauce into a container with a lid and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.