Tomato Leaves in the Sauce?

By Cook's Illustrated Published July 2016

Does adding tomato leaves to sauce boost its flavor?

We’ve read that adding tomato leaves to recipes can boost a dish’s fresh tomato flavor. Those of us with tomatoes in our home gardens thought this trick was worth looking into, so we sampled two batches of tomato sauce, one cooked with leaves and one without. Compared with the sweet-savory flavor of a classic tomato sauce, the batch with leaves tasted less sweet but more complex, according to tasters. The leaves added an aroma that one taster described as the “earthy and slightly waxy smell of a tomato plant.”

Was this a positive addition? Our tasters’ opinions were divided. If you grow tomatoes, we think it’s worth a try to decide for yourself. We recommend using 1/4 cup of chopped leaves per 8 cups of tomato sauce and tying the leaves in a cheesecloth bag so that they can be easily removed. Because the compound responsible for the aroma is unstable, add the leaves only during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Freezing the sauce will also diminish the leaves’ contribution.