Simple Roasted Tomatoes
Pretty much every grocery store has a reduced-for-quick-sale section. Ever wonder what to do with large quantities of over-ripe produce like these tomatoes I bought for under three dollars?
Whenever I see decent reduced-price tomatoes, I feel compelled to try to replicate my friend Meetal’s ridiculously delicious roasted tomatoes. I’ve never quite matched her results, but I keep trying.
The first time I tasted them was a couple years ago when Meetal, our sisters, and I went to a big flea market and Meetal volunteered to bring lunch. She sliced a loaf of ciabatta bread into two layers, pulled out some of the bread-y bits to make more space for filling and loaded it up with roasted tomatoes, arugula, and fresh mozzarella. She cut the overflowing loaf into four sections and individually wrapped them for us to enjoy while wandering through the flea market.
I’m not sure if it was our reaction to how delicious the sandwiches were, or just how good they looked, but a couple passersby asked where we bought them. Boy, were they disappointed to found out Meetal made the sandwiches!
Separately, each ingredient was good. Combined, they were even better. But the richness of the roasted tomatoes was by far the star ingredient.
That day, Meetal told me how she slow roasts the tomatoes and finishes them off by adding fresh basil and a dash of balsamic vinegar.
I can never remember the specifics of her recipe, so if I’m wrong I hope she’ll chime in and correct me. (Then again, she might not want any of us knowing her secret for perfect roasted tomatoes.) The truth is, as long as you slow roast the tomatoes it’s hard to go wrong.
I started by washing the tomatoes and removing any bad spots. Then I splashed some olive oil in the bottom of two shallow baking pans. I cut the tomatoes into large chunks and tossed in a few whole, peeled, cloves of garlic and a few chunks of onion. (One time I put in a little red bell pepper, too, which lent a nice hint of sweetness.)
Although I couldn’t remember the temperature Meetal uses, I knew it was low. So I set the oven at 300F degrees.
The hard part comes next. Waiting. Because these are slow roasted, expect to wait at least five or six hours before it even starts to look like this:
It’s more than worth the wait, though, since the flavor intensifies as the moisture evaporates and the ingredients caramelize.
At this point, you can use a fork to peel off and pick out tomato skins if you like. I picked some of the larger skins out then used a potato masher to work the mixture into a chunky sauce.
Next I added some basil (sadly it was dried, not fresh), a splash or two of balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.
If you don’t like chunky sauce, let it cool a bit and pop it into a food processor or use an immersion blender to achieve the consistency you prefer.
While I didn’t have ciabatta bread, fresh mozzarella, or arugula on hand, I had some gnocchi in the freezer so I made this:
There’s still a lot of roasted tomatoes leftover, so I might yet make the sandwiches. You can uses this sauce with almost any pasta or just dip some nice rustic bread in and enjoy. It would probably make a great pizza sauce, too.
Have you ever bought bulk quantities of over-ripe produce? What did you make with it?