While farmers markets are overflowing with fresh ripe summer tomatoes, take advantage of the season and make roasted tomato marinara sauce. Skip the stockpot and pull out your roasting pan for richly concentrated, flavorful roasted tomato sauce. Enjoy it tonight or freeze it for the months to come.
In late summer when prices are low, I'll bring home twenty pounds (double batch) of fresh tomatoes and make roasted tomato marinara sauce. Roasting tomatoes concentrates the natural sweetness of the tomatoes, garlic and onions. Extra sauce freezes well for easy dinners in colder months to come. There is nothing like the flavor of your own homemade tomato sauce. It's a lot of tomatoes but it's an easy recipe.
For a full batch with a yield of 7-8 cups of sauce, here is what you need:
- 10 pounds fresh tomatoes
- 16 cloves of fresh garlic (2 heads)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Dry red wine (optional)
- 1 bunch fresh oregano or fresh basil (or 2 tablespoons dried)
- 2 medium onions
- Sea salt
- Ground black pepper
- Red pepper flakes
Some people add a little sugar to offset the acidity of the tomatoes but I don't think this recipe needs it. If you prefer to add sugar, try a teaspoon (or use monk fruit).
Another nice add is a tablespoon or two of balsamic vinegar. To use dried herbs instead of fresh herbs, use a dried Italian seasoning blend.
Types of Tomatoes
So what's a good tomato for this sauce? I look for Roma tomatoes and the heirloom varieties, especially Brandywine and Purple Cherokee (a purple beefsteak). Red beefsteak tomatoes are good too. Buy what looks best and a mix is great for homemade pasta sauce. For more info on varieties of tomatoes read this.
Wine or Not
Why add wine? Because the wine gives it more depth of flavor, it enhances and intensifies the flavor. When I cook with wine I use the mini airline size bottles so I don't have to open a big bottle or when a bigger bottle is nicer (and more expensive) than I want to cook with. If you don't want wine in a recipe, just omit it.
Use one large roasting pan (like you use for a turkey) for a half batch or two large roasting pans for a full batch. For a full batch with one roasting pan, split this recipe into two batches. If you have double ovens or one really large oven, you might be able to do two pans at once with two roasting pans. If you only have one pan, try borrowing a second from a friend.
Don't use disposable, uncoated aluminum pans. The acidity in tomatoes reacts with the aluminum with the possibility of leaving an unpleasant metallic taste.
While the long terms effects of aluminum leaching into foods it not fully known (there are conflicting reports), acidic foods like tomatoes are better off in stainless steel or anodized aluminum.
Anodized aluminum roasting pans work because the manufacturing process hardens the metal making it non-reactive.
- Pre-heat a hot oven to 425°F
- Wash the tomatoes and core them, depending on variety. Beefsteak and heirloom tomatoes have bigger cores. If you are using Romas, no cores.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with a clean kitchen towel and lay the tomatoes out while you work on them.
- Next, chop the tomatoes into larger chunks. Roughly chop onions and peel garlic cloves.
- As you chop them, place tomatoes, onions and garlic into the roasting pans
- Add olive oil, herbs, wine, salt and pepper and toss with your hands to mix.
- Roasting time is approximately 1 hour, depending on how juicy tomatoes are. Roast until the tomatoes and onions are a shriveled with some browned edges, and still some juice in the pan bottom.
Tip - Don't cut the tomatoes too small as smaller pieces roast faster. You want them to develop flavor.
Chunky Sauce or Smooth
After roasting, pour everything carefully into a food processor or blender and puree. For a chunky sauce, do a few pulses. For a smooth sauce, process for a little longer. Your preference.
Another tool option, use a stick blender (immersion blender). They are a handy tool that takes up a lot less kitchen space than a food processor or high powered blender for smaller kitchens. Be sure to puree in a tall pot in the kitchen sink to reduce splatter (and wear an apron!).
How to Store and Freeze
The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for 5 days in an airtight container, or freeze for several months. I prefer glass jars over freezer bags as bags can leak or puncture and they are plastic. A mason jar or ball jar work fine. When you fill the jars, don't fill them all of the way to the top. Leave just a little head space for expansion. To thaw frozen sauce, place it in the refrigerator overnight, pour into a pan over medium heat with a lid on until it's hot. On of my favorite things to label jars with is these removable labels. They work great.
Serve over your favorite pasta noodle. It's a good basic spaghetti sauce, or for penne or rotini (corkscrew). For a low carb dinner, serve over zucchini noodles. It also makes a terrific pizza sauce.
This sauce is terrific with my ricotta and kale stuffed shells recipe. If you love mushrooms, try this homemade marinara sauce with mushrooms. For more roasted tomatoes, try these oven roasted cherry tomatoes with fresh thyme.
Tomato Canning Notes
I used to can this sauce with a pressure canner so it was pantry stable. Now I just freeze the finished sauce.
Low-acid foods, such as tomato sauce, should optimally be processed using a pressure canner, not a water bath. Only a pressure canner can reach the 240 degrees necessary to safely process low-acid foods (a ph value greater than 4.6).
For instructions on preparing canned tomatoes, check out these resources:
- Stainless steel roasting pans
- Food processor or blender
- Double ovens or split the batch into two
- 10 pounds fresh tomatoes
- 16 large whole garlic cloves, peeled
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup dry red wine optional
- 6 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves or 2 tablespoons dried
- 2 medium onions roughly chopped
- 1-2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar optional
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- ¼-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes optional
- Pre-heat the oven (s) to 425 degrees (218C). Get out two large stainless steel roasting pans (like for roasting a turkey).
- Wash the tomatoes. Depending on the type of tomato, you may need to cut out the core first, as with large Beefsteak or Heirloom varieties. Then, cut tomatoes into large chunks. Don’t cut the pieces too small. Big chunks are good. Smaller pieces might roast too fast.
- Place tomatoes in the roasting pan. Add garlic cloves, oil, wine or broth, oregano, onion, salt and pepper. Toss with your hands. Place pans in the oven (s) and roast until tomatoes have reduced and are starting to get a few black edges. The pan should still have some juices, not be dry. Depending on your oven it should take 45-60 minutes. Stir half way through. If the tomatoes are really juicy, it may take longer.
Cool and Puree
- Remove pans from oven, set on the stove top and allow to cool until you can handle it. Carefully transfer the roast tomatoes into a food processor and pulse 5-6 times. You can also use a blender and proess in batches. Serve or cool completely and freeze in portions.