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Oven Roasting Fresh Tomatoes for Pasta Sauce

A while back I wrote a post about using the preserved tomato sauce from 2008 that we still had in our pantry. It was the last jar of what was the best tomato crop we have grown -- to date. This weekend we picked and roasted the first batch from this year's garden with high hopes that we could match the richness of flavor from that magical year.

I wanted to share the process, especially since it's so simple, at least up to the canning, which I won't cover here. Those of you that can know it's not really hard, just a little time consuming.

The first step is pretty obvious, get yourself some tomatoes. We like to grow our own, but you can also buy them from a farm or farm market. Here's a little tip if you decide to buy -- offer to buy the "seconds", you know, the less than perfect tomatoes that everyone else has passed on. They can have blemishes, partial spoilage and even the occasionally bug hole. Don't worry, you're going to cut away any bad parts and you'll be surprised how little waste there is. Most farmers will be happy to sell you these orphans at a reduced price. Don't be afraid to haggle! Later in the season we'll do exactly that after our plants have exhausted their yield.

For now though, we are happily picking beautiful fruit from our plants. Here's what we got this weekend.

As you can see we like o grow a pretty wide variety of tomatoes. This year we planted the following varieties: Tigerella, Juliette, Sausage, White Cherry, Sungold, Boxcar Willie, Legend, Hawaiian Pineapple, Green Zebra, Black Zebra, Tommy Toe, Brandywine Red and Viva Italia. Not all came ripe at the same time but many are in this batch.

First, give them a light rinse to remove any remaining soil. You'll need a good sharp paring knife and a sturdy, oven safe roasting pan with high sides, the kind you might cook your Thanksgiving turkey in (no, not one of those cheap foil one's you buy in a supermarket, this is going to get heavy). Cut the tomatoes in chunks. I know that's a technical term but I'm sure you'll figure it out. The point is that the relative size isn't that important. You can even leave the cherry tomatoes whole. Fill the roasting pan almost to the top if you have enough tomatoes. Don't worry, they'll cook down in size as they release their liquid and some of it boils off. Add multiple (another technical term) cloves of whole garlic. The amount is really "to taste" so you may need to experiment some. We like a lot and fortunately we just harvested our garlic from the garden a few weeks ago.

Add a liberal amount of extra virgin olive oil (1/4 - 1/2 cup) to the pan, stirring just enough to get things coated. Add salt (about 1 tsp Kosher salt per quart of tomatoes). Put the pan into a 425 degree oven and walk away -- at least for while. The tomatoes on top will eventually start to brown. This is a good time to open the oven just long enough to stir the mixture up bring new tomatoes to the top. Repeat this process every time the tomatoes on top brown. How do I know when they're done you ask? Well, it's a little bit of a feel thing but what we look for is that the water to pulp ratio is about even and all the tomatoes are "broken down." All the skins will be loose and mostly separated from the meat.

Remove the pan from the oven and move to somewhere safe, we use the stove top. Warning, warning, warning! At this point, the mixture is pretty loose and at pretty much the temperature of lava. Make sure the kids and pets are out of the way. Allow to cool to room temperature.

You'll need a way to remove the skins and seeds and convert this beautiful mixture into a silky smooth sauce. We use a hard food mill we bought from Williams Sonoma years ago. It's a little bit of work put wonderfully gratifying to do. The food mill grinds the tomato meat, passes the liquid and removes the skins which are then discarded.

The sauce is now ready to be used as is, "doctored" into a variety of other tomato based creations, canned for future use or even frozen! The roasted garlic flavor will be there no matter which of the methods you pick and no matter how long you store the canned or frozen sauce.

I've said it before but it bears repeating, there is nothing better than opening a jar of this magic in the middle of winter and getting that garden fresh taste.

Four Seasons Food
Four Seasons Food hosted by Delicieux and Chezfoti


  1. Great job. I can't wait until September...that's when we make our sauce her in Toronto.

  2. My parents always made fresh tomato sauce to preserve in jars too. I'm so used to the lovely taste that does not compare to the commercially available stuff, that now when I run my own kitchen I couldn't even conceive of not making my own too.

    The pictures look great! :)

    1. Great, thanks for reading and for your comment. I hear you about the commercially available stuff - some of it's not awful, but it never tastes "fresh".

  3. Food mills are awesome and I love using mine, although I've never used it to make tomato sauce. It's a great idea though because it really would help remove the skins without blanching and peeling...

    1. We love our mill too. Using it this way makes the tomato skins a complete non issue.

    2. Thanks so much for sharing with Made with Love Mondays - I know this is a time-consuming process because my mother used to can/freeze tomatoes every year from her garden and it was a BIG job ;)

  4. I have 15 vines full of green tomatoes.... soon....
    Now I just need to find my food mill.

  5. I have 15 vines of full of green tomatoes (well, 1 is supposed to be green). I need to find my food mill...

    1. You could always go the old fashion route; par boil, peel by hand, slice open and pull the seeds out.....never mind, find the food mill :)

  6. Oh man, I need to get a food mill! This makes me want to try my first batch of homemade sauce now that my hubby is growing tomatoes for the first time this year. We had some blossom end rot on the first round, but now we're waiting for them to turn red so I can do something with them! Can't wait to try this recipe, but in the meantime, I'll buy myself a food mill. :)

    1. Thanks Rachel. A food mill is a great addition to any kitchen.

  7. Hi Al....I remember reading this post back in 2012 and I loved it then and I love it now! Such a great guide to making awesome tomato pasta sauce which looks so vibrant and tasty. Thankyou for entering this seasonal and always relevant post in to Four Seasons Food xx

  8. Thanks Anneli! We have had another great tomato crop this year and are busily canning our "stock" for the winter. Continued success with Four Season Food....


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