I was shopping at a locally owned grocery the other day and saw they were still selling local fresh tomatoes. Rumor has it, although I wasn’t there, farmers market vendors were also selling tomatoes this week. This brought to mind the last of my garden beauties, picked not quite ripe and some just plain green, that I had sitting on my windowsill ripening and waiting. Remembering a recipe a friend recently gave me I decided it was time to take some action. Thinking you might also have the last of your tomato harvest waiting I thought I would pass on this recipe before it is too late and we find ourselves in the dead of Winter.
This is a great treatment for late harvest tomatoes that may not be quite as sweet as those picked at peak. The roasting carmelizes the natural sugars, intensifies the flavor and adds a bit of smokiness to the sauce. Keeping the seeds gives it extra moisture and by tossing the vegetables in tomato paste the sauce develops a deep red color and a more intense flavor.
The original version of this recipe came from our friends at Cooks Illustrated, published March, 2007. I have adapted it to my tastes and think it came out very well. Feel free to make adjustments to tailor it to your palate. By the way, I used Roma tomatoes as that is what I had but Cooks says regular vine ripened ones work fine but large juicier ones like beefsteaks may be watery and need some thickening.
Here is my version.
Recipe Makes about 3 1/2 cups
2T tomato paste (I like to use the kind sold in a tube, so convenient for when you need just a small amount)
2T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes
Sea salt and Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 lbs, tomatoes, cored and halved, pole to pole (trim off any bad spots if needed)
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 small onion, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 T red wine vinegar
A small pinch of sugar, to taste (up to 2t)
2 t fresh thyme leaves or 1 t dried, optional
- Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick foil.
- Combine tomato paste, 1T olive oil, pepper flakes, 3/4 t salt and 1/4t pepper in a large bowl.
- Add the tomatoes, garlic and onions and toss to evenly coat.
- Place the garlic and onions in the middle of the prepared baking sheet and arrange the tomatoes, cut side down, around them.
- Roast until the vegetables are soft and tomato skins begin to char, 40-50 minutes.
- Remove baking sheet from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes.
- Transfer garlic and onion to the food processor and pulse until finely chopped, about five, one second pulses. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, and remaining 1T of olive oil and pulse until desired consistency is reached. It should be thick and somewhat chunky.
- Season with salt and pepper and add a pinch of sugar or more to taste.
- Add the pesto or fresh basil and thyme, if using, and pulse to incorporate.
- Taste and adjust seasonings and sugar if needed.
You can serve this sauce immediately with pasta or store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days in an air-tight container. It can also be frozen for future use, keeping well for 2-3 months. I saved some in the freezer and also ate some that night tossed with orecchiette, also know as “little ears” a small disk-shaped pasta. Chunkier sauces pair best with this or other shapes such as penne, ziti or shells so the sauce has a place to hide and surprise you when you bite into it.
You will find this sauce to be very versatile. Use as a pasta sauce as stated above or for chicken parmesan, grilled fish, pizza, or in any recipe calling for tomato sauce. If you find it to be too thick, it can be thinned with pasta water or stock. Too thin? Try cooking it on the stove to reduce and concentrate the volume. You can also add more tomato paste while you are cooking it stove top if needed.
So do not despair if you sill is covered in tomatoes trying to ripen or if you just cannot resist buying them one more time before the snow flies. This is great for tonight’s dinner or a way to make them last for a couple more months. If you are like me, it is always difficult to say good-bye to summer and its tasty bounty.
What spin are you putting on it to make it your own? Love it when you share!