Let’s say, hypothetically speaking of course, you impulsively bought a 5-pound box of tomatoes at the farm stand. Oh the ideas you had for them as you drove home, planning gorgeous salads, burgers and homemade salsas.
Except that after lining the beauties on your counter and eating a couple for dinner, you realized they are all mostly ripe and need to be eaten immediately. It’s a good problem to have, but all a sudden you’re left wondering exactly how you’re going to use the rest of them and not let any go bad.
Don’t worry, I’ve been there, too. Too many times to count. For me, it was the happy surprise of wandering around the garden last week only to realize that under all the overgrowth (and a few weeds), my two little tomato plants were not only healthy and thriving, but producing.
I had my daughter run to the house with the specific instruction to get “the biggest bowl you can find.” We filled it up and still had to walk up to the house with our shirts pulled out like hammocks, tomatoes piled up to our chins.
When you find yourself with this very pleasant problem, the solution is always oven roasted tomato basil sauce. The process couldn’t be easier. You quarter the tomatoes, chop an onion or shallot and smash some garlic. It all gets a big glug of olive oil and is piled in the largest casserole dish you’ve got with fresh basil leaves. A few minutes in the oven and a quick pulse in the food processor and you’ve got the most flavorful, fresh-tasting sauce. You can store it in the freezer for later or use it up right away with pasta or as pizza sauce.
• Andrea McCoy writes the column Kitchen Captivated for Yakima Magazine and at The Salt and Stone, a home cooking blog. She writes this column for Thursday’s SCENE section. The Salt and Stone is a nod not just to the essence of cooking, but also to the Yakima Valley. Read more at www.thesaltandstone.com.
Oven Roasted Tomato Basil Sauce
5 pounds tomatoes
1 large sweet onion OR 3 shallots
5 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup fresh basil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Quarter tomatoes. Don’t worry about peeling, pitting or seeding. Just cut them into four pieces unless the tomato is very small. (For small tomatoes, slice in half.) Dice the onion or shallots into bite-size or half-inch pieces. Use a knife to peel and smash the garlic cloves.
Combine the ingredients in a large rimmed baking dish. You can use a casserole dish, Dutch oven or rimmed cookie sheet. If you don’t have a big enough pan, just divide the vegetables between two dishes.
Drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and sugar. Use a wooden spoon to gently stir and combine. Scatter the fresh basil over the tomatoes. Roast in the 400-degree oven for 40 minutes, stirring at least once to make sure the tomatoes cook evenly.*
When the tomatoes are soft, slightly brown on the edges, and the skin is peeling away from the tomato, they are done roasting. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature. Use a slotted spoon to scoop tomato mixture into a food processor. The tomato mixture will be very watery when you pull it from the oven. Use the slotted spoon to scoop up the tomato mixture or carefully drain the water into the sink before transferring to food processor.
Pulse until a sauce forms. Pulse longer for a smooth sauce, or just a few seconds for a chunky, rustic sauce. Taste the sauce and adjust flavor with a little extra fresh basil or salt if needed. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.
* You can always peel the skin off the tomatoes once you remove them from the oven. Allow the tomatoes to cool for a few minutes and then simply begin removing the peels. I skip this step because they blend up beautifully in the food processor, but if you prefer not to blend your tomato sauce, this is an easy step to remove the peels.
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For a delicious and easy dinner, boil pappardelle noodles in salted water per the instructions on the package. Toss the cooked noodles in the oven roasted tomato basil sauce and garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese and lots of fresh basil.