Easy Roasted Tomato Sauce
This is an absolutely wonderful recipe for sauce: you simply halve the tomatoes, drape them with some onions, garlic, seasonings, and olive oil, and then ignore them for two hours while the oven reduces them to a caramelized and sauce-ready pan of sweet flesh. A quick run through a food mill or blender, and the sauce is ready to eat or freeze. Easy peasy. And you can make it at night, if you like, the better to not be oppressed by the heat of the oven. A side note: try buttering your hot spaghetti before saucing; it adds so much delicious richness.
Hands-On Time: 15 minutes
Ready In: 2 ¼ hours
Yield: 3-4 cups
3-4 pounds ripe tomatoes, ideally plum, stems removed
1 medium onion, halved and sliced
2-3 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
A large pinch of dried herb, crumbled (marjoram, thyme, basil or oregano) or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh (optional)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon each kosher salt and sugar
freshly ground black pepper
- Heat the oven to 375ºF. Slice the tomatoes in half lengthwise, then arrange them cut-side down, in one layer on a large, rimmed baking sheet (mine is 12- by 17-inches), lined with parchment paper, if you like, for easier clean-up.
- Arrange the onions, garlic and herbs over the top, then drizzle the whole thing evenly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, sugar, and pepper.
- Bake for an hour and a half to two hours (or so), until the tomatoes are browning in spots and have fully collapsed.
- Now you have two choices: put the contents of the pan (including all the juices), through a food mill: this will make a smooth, skinless and seedless sauce. Or else blend it all in a blender or food processor, which will make a good but more roughly textured and seedy sauce.
- Taste it: it will likely need a bit more salt, and more sugar too, if it seems acidic. Use it, or allow it to cool completely, then spoon into labeled freezer bags and freeze, or else spoon it into 1-cup containers and then, when these are frozen solid, turn them out into a large Ziploc freezer bag to store.
I usually use plum tomatoes, which are meatier and quicker than regular ones, since you don't have to wait for the oceans of juice to cook down, but these worked just fine. And in truth, I've made the sauce with quite mediocre tomatoes, and it has still been good, since the long oven time really coaxes out their shy sweetness.
And if you freeze the sauce, as I do, in 1-cup portions, you can thaw exactly the right amount to make Mexican rice or tamale pie, to add to bean or lentil soup, or to sauce a half a pound of pasta or a couple of pizzas.
This recipe is for one pan, which makes 3-4 cups; I usually double it, and simply rotate the pans halfway through the cooking times so that they roast evenly. If I'm planning to freeze the sauce, I omit the herbs so that it can be used in either Italian or Mexican dishes without any conflicting flavors.