The Single Ingredient To Make Pizza Restaurant-Worthy

When you think about the best pizza you've ever had, odds are it was a pretty straightforward pie. That's because the philosophy of Italian cooking is uncomplicated: Allow the ingredients' freshness to shine by using the simplest techniques possible. With that in mind, crafting a restaurant-quality pizza at home doesn't require a whole lot of bells and whistles. According to James Beard Award-winning chef Dan Kluger, the secret to the perfect pie is homemade pizza sauce.

If your homemade pizza isn't quite living up to your expectations, it's likely because you've overlooked one very important ingredient in your sauce: real tomatoes. Kluger told Mashed as much in an exclusive interview. "My main thing is staying away from pre-made sauce," he explained.

When it comes to the wood-oven pizzas Kluger serves at Loring Place and Washington Squares — his Michelin-recommended restaurant in Greenwich Village, and his to-go-only pizza concept inspired by Loring Place's popular grandma pizza, respectively — he likes to keep the sauce simple. "My preference is something like Jersey Fresh canned tomatoes or Muir Glen Organic," he told Mashed. "[The tomatoes] just get crushed with some good extra virgin olive oil and salt."

The secret is in the sauce

While there's no denying that some store-bought pizza sauces are pretty tasty, Kluger firmly believes that homemade sauce is what makes the difference between a decent DIY pizza and a restaurant-quality pie. If you like a more rustic-style pizza sauce complete with tomato chunks, Kluger's method of crushing canned tomatoes with olive oil and salt produces an excellent, no-nonsense sauce that adds to the toothsome experience.

Alternatively, if you prefer a smoother pizza sauce, you might seek out an easy pizza sauce recipe that utilizes canned tomato sauce and tomato paste (for extra tomatoey goodness) rather than whole or crushed tomatoes. With the additions of salt, pepper, and a touch of Italian seasoning, you can find the perfect balance of acidity and herbaceousness. Either way, "Don't use too much of it, and keep it simple," Kluger told Mashed. More than anything, Kluger urges you to concoct a sauce that tastes good to you. "If you don't want to eat a spoonful of it on its own, it's not going to be any better on the pizza."