The Origins of Ketchup (It is not American, and it is not red!)

Do you know the origin of ketchup? It is not an American invention, but was invented in the Far Asiatic East. Yes, ketchup is an oriental sauce, and the name probably derives from the Malysian term kecap o kicha or from the Cantonese word ketsiap (tomato sauce). Both were sweet and sour with the addition of soy sauce or fish sauce, but there was no tomato in it.

When this sauce arrived in Europe in the seventeenth century via Dutch sailors from China, the chefs personalized this red sauce with a lot of variations, adding oysters, lemon juice, nuts, mushroom, and even fruits like peaches and plums. Every cook in Europe had a different recipe, but the tomato was missing.

Finally the first tomato ketchup appeared in 1812 in a recipe by the American, James Mease, from Philadelphia. It was only in 1872 that Henry J. Heinz developed the recipe for the ketchup we all know today.

Heinz increased the quantity of vinegar and sugar and added onion and a mix of spices. This combination of flavors is famous worldwide. In Piemonte, in Northern Italy, a similar variation of ketchup is called bagnèt ross (red dip), and it is usually served with other sauces like salsa verde, mayonnaise, and mostarda (a delicious and unique sauce with tangy and spicy candied fruits) with bollito, which is a traditional dish made of various cuts of beef in their broth.

It is very easy to make ketchup, and the result is beyond better than any you could buy in the supermarket—sorry, Mr. Heinz. Here is wonderful recipe for homemade ketchup that I found in a old Italian cookbook:

Homemade Ketchup


1 large red onion, minced

1 clove of garlic, minced Apprx. 17 oz. (500 g) of canned tomatoes 7 oz (200 ml) red wine vinegar

3 oz (70 g) soft brown sugar


Olive oil

A pinch of cinnamon

A pinch of pepper

Sauté the onion in oil until translucent, and then add the garlic.

Add the tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, salt, and spices and cook for 10 minutes to reduce and thicken. Whiz in a blender or with a hand blender until smooth.

Now let's move on to a perfect recipe for your homemade ketchup...

The Mc.Douglas Super Burger!

The ingredients are key. In Italy, the best cut of meat for the burger will always be Chianina, from the cows in the valleys near the Arno River. I always make the sauces from scratch: mayonnaise and ketchup, and I use the best aged Fontina cheese, which is very stinky (I adore stinky cheese) from Northern Italy. The secret ingredient is caramelized onions, and I always serve the burger with potatoes fried in extra virgin olive oil and rosemary. When I can, I make the dough for the bun, but any good burger bun from a bakery will do if you don't have time.

Mc.Douglas Super Burger

(This recipe is for one burger)