This roasted tomato sauce with optional vegetables has an incredible flavor and is a wonderful – and super easy – way to use the garden harvest and freeze it for later.
This article is a part of Tuesdays In The Garden, with a theme of Garden-to-Table recipes – the ultimate reward of gardening! At the end of this recipe, be sure to check out the other great recipe ideas from my gardening friends.
When I’ve got tomatoes 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?” Um, let me count the ways:
- Addictive Tomato Chutney
- Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil
- Pizza Sauce
- Tomato & Feta Salad
- Zucchini, Corn & Tomato Saute…well, the list could go on and on.
However, the number one way I use our tomatoes is to make this incredible roasted tomato sauce that I freeze to use all year long. And by incredible, I mean out-of-this-world flavor – next to Addictive Tomato Chutney it’s probably everyone’s favorite recipe. Having this sauce in our freezer is like having a stash of organic, so good-for-you-it’ll-make-your-eyes-roll convenience food ready whenever you need it.
Its also helps that it’s super easy, takes care of a lot of tomatoes at once, and even uses other vegetables that I have if I want to add them. It’s a recipe that fits into almost any schedule – you can get going while you’re making dinner, then puree it and freeze it after.
Did I mention easy?
How to Make and Preserve Roasted Tomato Sauce
1. Start with the number of baking pans that will fit in your oven (if you’ve got a lot of tomatoes – you can always do one pan at a time for smaller batches). For me, that is one large 15×10 roaster and two 13×9 pans.
Pour a couple of tablespoons of olive oil into each pan.
2. Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the cores.
TIP: Plum/paste tomatoes will yield a thick and meaty sauce, but this roasted sauce is usually thick anyway and I like the flavor of all my different tomatoes, especially heirlooms, so I use any ripe tomatoes I have. If I’ve got paste tomatoes ripe, I’ll try to do 1/2 paste and 1/2 slicing in each pan.
2b. If you’d also like to use tomatoes with more juice, like heirlooms, give a little squeeze to the tomato after cutting it in half.
A lot of the seeds come out and you’ll be left with 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 easy to thicken at cooking time if you’d like with a can of tomato paste.
3. Place each tomato 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.
4. Shhh…this is the part just between you and me. You can add other vegetables to the sauce and your kids won’t know they’re eating zucchini, peppers, carrots, or whatever. Actually, nobody does – and what they don’t know won’t hurt them, right?
The truth is – I wasn’t trying to be healthy when I started this, I was just trying to use up extra zucchini, ha!
5. The ingredient I feel is the signature of this recipe? Balsamic vinegar. Add 2-4 tablespoons to each pan to really enhance the vegetables, and resulting sauce, when roasted.
6. Finish off the layers with 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.
7. 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.
At this point, most of the skins are browned and wrinkled and I find it easy to just pull them off with tongs. I don’t bother with the ones that won’t come off easy, just the ones that pull off like the one pictured – usually thicker-skinned paste tomatoes.
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 another 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.
8. Let the roasted vegetables cool for a few minutes and then use a large spoon to transfer the vegetables (and liquid) into a blender.
TIP: Try to get even amounts of vegetables and liquid in each blender batch, otherwise you’ll end up with containers of really thick sauce and one container of super liquidy sauce. Each 13×9 pan is typically enough for one blender, but since I make three pans, I add the contents of the two smaller pans to the largest, mix it evenly and then remove 1/3 at a time to blend.
Update: Over the years I’ve tried other ways to smooth the sauce, using an immersion blender (after first dumping all the roasted vegetables into a stockpot) or food processor.
Choose whatever way suits you (and your equipment) best.
9. Pour into freezer containers, leaving an inch or two for expansion. The pans I use (a 15×10 and two 13x9s) usually yields about 3 quarts.
Date and label each container so you will know what you’ve got when you’re looking for dinner in February.
Update: I now use quart glass canning jars to freeze all our tomato sauce. I make sure to leave 2-inches for expansion and haven’t had a problem with breaking while in the freezer, though I’ve lost a jar while defrosting.
If you’re like our family, you are going to be SO happy to have taken the time to make this roasted tomato sauce when you’re eating it long after the harvest has passed – and one that’s convenient, tasty, and healthy.