Yesterday, I groused about the extreme heat we’ve been having this September, but I must grudgingly admit that it is very pleasant to still be able to eat supper on the patio and to not wear either sweater or sweatshirt when doing so. This is especially true if you are eating roasted tomato sauce made with tomatoes you picked that very afternoon. Add sausage and peppers to the sauce. Spoon over the pasta of your choice. Serve with a salad made with lettuce and carrots from Farmer Kev’s garden.
What more could you ask for? A glass of red wine? Why, yes, indeed. A meal like that, eaten outside on a warm night, certainly fits my idea of la dolce vita.
This tomato sauce, which can really only be made once a year when the tomatoes are at their ripest, is so good that last night Clif said, “You would have to pay a lot to get a meal like this in a restaurant.”
That is high, high praise coming from my Yankee husband, whose usual comment is “pretty darned good.” Let’s just say that last night at the little house in the big woods, the cook was pretty darned happy.
I made the sauce using Juliet tomatoes, which Johnny’s Selected Seeds describes as a “mini-roma” that has a “[d]elicious, rich tomato flavor for salads, great salsa, and fresh pasta sauce. ” This description is no exaggeration. I’ve made roasted tomato sauce with romas, and the sauce is perfectly good. But with the fair Juliet, well, it makes even a Yankee husband go beyond his usual understated words of praise. However, I have looked at several recipes online, and non-roma tomatoes are also used. So any fresh tomato will do. (I have a huge bowl filled with Farmer Kev tomatoes that are just begging to be made into a roasted sauce.)
Now comes the big question: What to do with the skins and seeds? Neither Clif nor I mind the skin and seeds of Juliet, and I blend the roasted tomatoes just as they are. With larger tomatoes, I might remove the skins, but I would leave the seeds. For those who don’t like or can’t eat seeds, the sauce could be strained.
I have loads of fresh oregano in my garden, and I sprinkle a generous amount of the herb, along with kosher salt, on the tomatoes before roasting. Dried oregano could be substituted, but in lesser amounts.
After roasting, I blend the tomatoes in a food processor. The sauce is then sautéed with garlic and olive oil, and you could stop right there. However, last night, I added peppers and chicken sausage, but you could add zucchini or summer squash. Or onions. Or meat balls. Spoon the sauce over pasta or roasted eggplant. Or a thick, chewy bread.
If it’s warm enough, eat outside. If not, eat inside. Either way, it’s la dolce vita when you have a sauce this good.
Roasted Tomato Sauce
Adapted from a recipe from Epicurious
- 4 pounds of fresh tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a little more for oiling the pans
- 5 tablespoons of chopped oregano (Dried oregano can also be used but in much lesser amounts, say, a teaspoon or so.)
- Kosher salt, enough to sprinkle on the tomatoes, about a tablespoon
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced, and about a tablespoon of oil for sautéing after the tomatoes have been roasted
- Peppers, sausage, zucchini, summer squash (These ingredients are optional and are sautéed with the garlic.)
- Arrange racks in the oven so that one is in the middle and the other is above it.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Wash the tomatoes, dry, and remove the stems.
- Cut them in half and put them in a large mixing bowl.
- Stir the 3 tablespoons of olive oil into the tomatoes.
- Place the tomatoes, cut side up, on 2 oiled baking sheets.
- Sprinkle with kosher salt and chopped oregano.
- Place baking sheets on racks and set timer for 20 minutes. When the timer goes off, switch the sheets so that the sheet on the top rack is in the middle, and the sheet on the middle rack is now on the top. Roast for another 20 minutes or until the tomatoes are very soft.
- Let the tomatoes cool on the baking sheets. When they are cool, scoop the tomatoes into a blender or food processor and blend into a sauce.
- In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté the peppers, sausage, and/or squash, if using. When the vegetables are soft, add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the blended tomatoes.
- Simmer the sauce for at least a half-hour or until the sauce reaches a desired thickness. (Tomato paste could be added if the sauce seems too thin, but that should be a last resort. You don’t want anything to interfere with the lovely, fresh taste of the tomatoes.)
- Serves 4 or 6, depending upon appetite.