I love to have a little bit of everything on my weekends. I like to spend time being productive so that I can also enjoy a solid chunk of time just plain lounging and relaxing guilt-free. But one of the things I love most gives me a little of both – cooking! I love to cook, and it’s definitely a nod towards the women in my family. My Nana was famous for her baking skills – she even had her famous sugar cookie recipe published in Sunset Magazine! My Grammy, being French born, used to make the most incredible Coq Au Vin and Coquilles St Jacques. And my mom is a killer cook. I never realized it growing up, but I was crazy spoiled. I can’t tell you how many people I have met who have never had homemade jam or tomato sauce from scratch. It’s a tragedy really, and I can’t imagine having grown up without them.
So when I saw stacks of red tomatoes at the farmers market yesterday, I knew I had to load up and make some sauce. Not only did it sound delicious, I knew it would be a good project to lift my spirits and shift my focus away from the ankle injury I’ve been nursing. I asked for a box and didn’t really listen to how much I ended up with – I was too excited! But I think I walked away with somewhere between 12 and 15lbs of tomatoes. While I was waiting to pay, a few people inquired as to what I was doing with all these tomatoes. When I said I was making sauce, people seemed awestruck, one woman starting asking questions – How much will that make? How long do you roast them? Then what? I am always a little caught off guard – I don’t have a recipe, per se. I just wing it. But it got me to thinking… I really ought to write down the general guidelines I follow. So here is my attempt at documenting a loose recipe for homemade roasted tomato sauce.
Get a CRAP TON of tomatoes: In reality, you can do this same thing with a small number and just have a single or double-serving of sauce. But for me, I like to load up and stock up. This time around I used ~12-15lbs of tomatoes. enough to fill 2 jelly roll pans.
Prep your olive oil mixture: combine pressed garlic, basil, oregano, diced onion, and red pepper flakes with olive oil and let it sit while you prep your tomatoes. This will allow the olive oil to start to take on the flavor of all the goodies. This tim, in total, I ended up using about 1 cup of olive oil, 1 head of garlic, 2/3 a sweet onion, about 3 handfuls of fresh basil, chopped, and a small handful of chopped fresh oregano. I probably started with about 1/4 of all the above ingredients at a time. then re-made the batch a few times as I went along – you’ll be tossing a LOT of tomatoes through this mixture.
Preheat your oven to 325F.
Wash and cut the tomatoes: Rinse the tomatoes in water and then pat dry. Cut out the core and quarter each tomato. As you have a couple handfuls of tomatoes, drop them in the oil mixture and toss to coat. Then move them over to your roasting pans. I ended up using 2 jellyroll pans and they were packed. I lined mine with foil for ease of cleanup, but that is optional. Once all the pans are loaded up, sprinkle sea salt over the tomatoes
Pop in the oven to Roast: If you are using multiple pans/racks, make sure to swap them about halfway through roasting for an even cook. I roasted mine for about 2 hours, and ended up with a nice sweet sauce that was a little on the thinner sauce. For deeper flavors, more caramelization and a thicker sauce, you can roast longer, maybe 3-4 hours.
Blend: I like to toss mine in a big pot and then use the immersion blender to blend down. If you don’t have one use a blender or food processor and puree in batches, but let the tomatoes cool down a bit first. This also lets me taste and tweak seasonings or cook down to preferred thickness. If you prefer a richer sauce you might add a splash of red wine and bring to a simmer to reduce, but I usually leave the big batch alone. I’d recommend having some fresh french bread on hand to spoon out some sauce for taste testing as you refine the flavor.
Use and or freeze: I’ve yet to learn how to can, so I don’t make my sauce shelf stable. Instead I use however much I need the day it’s made, and then I load up pyrex, tupperware, or freezerbags with the rest and pup it in the freezer for future use.
And it’s that simple! It’s a little time consuming, but if you’re like me, that time is meditative, and the end result is well worth the extra effort. My best advice to you is, don’t get too caught up in the specifics. Give yourself permission to wing it a little – wanna add more red pepper flakes because you like spice? Go for it! Wanna add rosemary and skip the garlic? Feel free! Half the fun is knowing you created something to YOUR tastes, and then reaping the benefits with some crusty warm french bread and maybe some fresh grated parmesan. Yum!