Tomato sauce is any of a very large number of sauces made primarily from tomatoes, usually to be served as part of a dish (rather than as a condiment). Tomato sauces are common for meat and vegetables, but they are perhaps best known as sauces for pasta dishes.
Tomatoes have a rich flavour, high liquid content, very soft flesh which breaks down easily, and the right composition to thicken into a sauce when they are cooked (without the need of thickeners like roux). All of these qualities make them ideal for simple and appealing sauces. The simplest tomato sauces consist just of chopped tomato flesh cooked in a little olive oil and simmered until it loses its raw flavour, and seasoned with salt.
Optionally tomato skins may be scalded and peeled according to texture (especially thicker pelati paste varieties) and tomato seeds may be removed for bitterness.
Water (or another, more flavourful liquid such as stock or wine) is sometimes added to keep it from drying out too much. Onion and garlic are almost always sweated or sautéed at the beginning before the tomato is added. Other seasonings typically include basil, oregano, parsley, and possibly some spicy red pepper or black pepper. Ground or chopped meat is also common. In countries such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom, the term "tomato sauce" is used to describe a condiment similar to that known in the United States as 'ketchup'. In some of these countries, both terms are used for the condiment.
Italian cuisine has developed through centuries of social and political changes, with roots as far back as the 4th century BCE. Italian cuisine in itself takes heavy influences, including Etruscan, ancient Greek, ancient Roman, Byzantine, and Jewish. Significant changes occurred with the discovery of the New World with the introduction of items such as potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers and maize, now central to the cuisine but not introduced in quantity until the 18th century. Italian cuisine is noted for its regional diversity, abundance of difference in taste, and is known to be one of the most popular in the world, with influences abroad. CNN ranked Italian cuisine as the best in the world.
Italian cuisine is characterized by its extreme simplicity, with many dishes having only four to eight ingredients. Italian cooks rely chiefly on the quality of the ingredients rather than on elaborate preparation. Ingredients and dishes vary by region. Many dishes that were once regional, however, have proliferated with variations throughout the country.
Cheese and wine are a major part of the cuisine, with many variations and Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) (regulated appellation) laws. Coffee, specifically espresso, has become important in Italian cuisine.