When I'm inundated with tomatoes (yea!) and they are in buckets and bowls all over my kitchen, people will invariably ask when they see them, 'what are you going to do with all those tomatoes?'
My answer is: use 'em, cook 'em, can and freeze 'em!
I do a few sauces that I can in jars for the convenience, but most of my tomato sauce for the year I freeze. It's just so easy and takes care of a lot of tomatoes at once. I have a few recipes I make, but this one is my favorite because the flavors are so nicely concentrated. It tastes so wonderful in the depths of winter (well, it tastes good anytime, really...).
Sometimes I get a batch going while I'm making dinner, then puree it and freeze it after. Easy.
I start with however many pans will fit in my oven. For me, that is one large roaster and two 13x9 pans. Of course you can just do one, but I'm always trying to use up the tomatoes...
Pour 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil into each pan.
Plum tomatoes will yield a thick and meaty sauce, but this sauce is thick anyway and I want the flavor of all my different tomatoes, especially heirlooms, so I just use the ones I have. If I've got plum ones, I'll try to do 1/2 plum and 1/2 slicing.
Since I'm using tomatoes with more juice, I do give a little squeeze to the tomato after cutting it in half.
A lot of the seeds come out and I'm left with more of the meat of the tomato.
This is completely optional, of course, and there are times I'm in a hurry and can't be bothered.
The sauce is a bit thinner, but just a little.
And I've read that we Americans like our sauce too thick, anyway...
So, after they're cut in half, place the cut side down into some of the oil and slide it to the edge of the pan.
Repeat with all the tomatoes until the pans are full with a single layer of tomatoes and the oil has been distributed evenly.
Scatter chopped onions over the pans, tucking them into the crevices. I use about 1/2 an onion for each pan.
These are real precise measurements, I know. I just use up what's on hand...
Shhh...this is the part just between you and me. I add other vegetables to the sauce and my kids don't know they're eating zucchini, peppers, carrots, or whatever.
Actually, nobody does. And what they don't know won't hurt them.
The truth is, I wasn't trying to be healthy when I started this. I was just trying to use up extra zucchini...
Here's the ingredient in this recipe that is so important: add a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. I add about 4 to each pan.
Now is the time to add garlic and any herbs you'd like. Peel and slice or mince garlic, scattering and pushing into the crevices.
Then add dry or fresh herbs, or a combination. I usually have basil growing and will use that fresh, then add dried thyme and oregano. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes, switching the pans halfway through (if you're using more than one) from top rack to bottom.
Umm...doesn't this look good? Well, once you get past the yellowed hue from the overhead light. I am so not a food photographer...
At this point, most of the skins are browned and wrinkled and I find it easy to just pull them off with some tongs. I don't bother with the ones that won't come off easy-just the ones that pull off like the one pictured.
Again, this is optional. The skins can be left on before pureeing and if they bother you, you can push the sauce through a sieve to remove them. Or you can just eat them. Usually I won't do a whole other step and I find the sieve takes out some things I want like herbs, so plucking most of the skins is the easiest way to go for me.
Then dump the contents into a blender. Usually each pan will be a blender-full. I typically have more juice in the large roasting pan, so I will divvy that up among the other two. I also have scraped the contents of the smaller pans into the largest to mix evenly, then removed 1/3 at a time to blend.
Pour into freezer containers, leaving an inch or two for expansion. The one large and two smaller pans I use usually give me 3 quarts.
Date and label each container so you will know what you've got when you're looking for dinner in February.
When you're having a meal using garden produce long after the harvest has passed, you'll not be sorry you took a little time to do this now.
Roasted Tomato (and Vegetable) Sauce
Put in a large roasting pan:
- 3 Tb. olive oil
- about 6 lbs. tomatoes (1/2 plum, 1/2 slicing), cored and cut in half (cut side down)
- 1/2 large onion, chopped
- any vegetable on hand: zucchini, peppers, carrots, celery (optional)
- 5 or 6 cloves garlic, sliced or chopped
- 4 Tb. balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp. each dried herbs of choice: thyme, oregano, basil OR 1 Tb fresh, chopped
- about 1 tsp. each salt and pepper
- Roast for 45 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
- Remove skins with tongs, as desired.
- Process briefly in a blender or processor for a chunky sauce, or more for a smooth sauce.
- Use right away, or pour into quart-size freezer containers, label and freeze.
Makes about 2 quarts
Find more make ahead recipes at Life as Mom's Ultimate Recipe Swap.
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