March may seem like a strange time to write a post about making tomato sauces, but my local farm shop often has boxes of fresh tomatoes reduced. Too tempting an offer to pass up, especially when these savoury yet sweet, acidic, tart, plump, distinctive fruits can be prepared into a range of delicious deep, complex, luscious, yet balanced tomato sauces.
The simplest tomato sauce has got to be roasted. In a large tray, tomatoes, garlic, bay leaves and olive oil roast uncovered in a hot oven. In the oven, the tomatoes slightly dehydrate so that their flavour is concentrated and semi-caramelised to a wonderful rich, fruity, delicious intensity. The roasted tomatoes are then blitzed or blended to a rich intensely flavoured sauce for use in a variety of pasta dishes, for adding to stews, for pizza toppings, etc.
You can use any type of ripe tomato, the smaller cherry varieties can be washed and added to a roasting tray with the other ingredients, the larger varieties such as plum, or beefsteak will need slicing in half or into quarters – which can be time consuming if (like me) you have a few kilos to slice for roasting and unless you have a really big oven, you won’t be roasting all the tomatoes at once. I find it easier to prepare two trays for the oven and whilst they’re in the oven roasting, prepare the next batch.
Here’s what you need:
- Ripe tomatoes (any variety with or without stalks)
- Few cloves of unpeeled garlic
- Few leaves of fresh bay (or rosemary sprigs in you prefer)
- Salt & freshly ground pepper
- Olive oil
Here’s what you do:
Pre-heat your oven to 220C/445F/ Gas Mark 7. Drizzle a thin coating of oil ito your roasting tin(s).
Wash and dry your tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes can by added to roasting tray, any larger tomatoes will need to be halved or quartered depending on size. You don’t want to pack them too tightly into the roasting tray, give them space and use more than one tray. Scatter the garlic and bay leaves between the tomatoes. Drizzle the tomatoes with a coating of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Good to go …. put them in the oven, uncovered to roast. The roasting time will depend on the size of the tomatoes but give them at least 40-45 minutes. They are done when the tomato skins are shrivelled and taken on a slight brown tinge.
Tomatoes retain ALOT of heat, so you need to let them cool before blending them into a sauce. Once cooled transfer the roasted tomatoes (minus stalks, etc.), garlic (without the outer skin) and olive oil to a blender and blitz until smooth.
The next stage is your personal preference. If you like a really smooth tomato sauce you will need to run it through a sieve to remove the skin and seeds.
Most of the time I don’t bother to sieve the blended tomatoes and just leave the blended sauce “rustic” and divide it between suitable plastic containers for the fridge and for the freezer.
- Add a handful of basil (oregano, marjoram or any other fresh herb) to the roasted tomato mix just before blending for added Mediterranean flavour.
- This post is about roast tomato sauces, however roasted tomatoes are delicious served hot or warm as an accompaniment to a myriad of foods from fish to steak, couscous to chicken, lentils to lamb. Cold roasted tomatoes are a great accompaniment to cold meats, a mature cheddar, smoked fish or risotto; or served as part of an antipasti with salamis, cured meats, cheeses, olives and good crusty (home-made) breads.