The Sweet Taste of Summer – Oven Roasted Tomato Sauces
There is nothing like the taste of summer on a cool fall or winter day. Get ready for football season with oven roasted tomatoes for homemade pizza sauce, lasagna or chili sure to delight your family or friends.
Tomatoes are one of the easiest foods to preserve for winter use. I’ve become a fan of oven roasting tomatoes for sauces that can be easily packaged and frozen for use until the next local tomato harvest begins. The sauces below use the skin and seeds, which are some of the most nutritious parts of the tomato.
Heating tomatoes by oven roasting makes the anti-oxidant, lycopene, more bioavailable. Eating lycopene-rich foods may contribute to reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, and age-related eye disorders. Good nutrition and marvelous flavor – it’s the best of enjoying locally grown food!
Late summer and early fall, before the 1st frost hits, is the best time to take advantage of the abundance and good prices for locally-grown tomatoes. If you have a few hours to spare, it’s not too hard to oven roast a bushel of tomatoes and turn them into great sauces for the cool days ahead.
Use your own home-grown or locally grown tomatoes that have been ripened in the garden or field to assure maximum flavor in your sauces. Red-colored tomatoes, especially smaller red tomatoes, have the highest lycopene content. Yellow, orange, and green varieties add interesting flavors, so don’t discount them as an interesting addition to your sauces.
How to Oven Roast Tomatoes:
Cut up tomatoes in large chunks or slices. Roma tomatoes and other small tomatoes can be halved. Cut away any core, stems, or toughened scars. Place on non-stick baking sheets in single layers. The baking sheets need to have sides as the tomatoes will juice once heated.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 60 – 75 minutes. Tomatoes will be done when the edges of the slices or halves start to get a little browned or charred.
Three Tomato Sauces to Remind You of Summer:
Pizza Sauce – Drain the oven roasted tomatoes in a colander for several hours. (You can save the drained juices for a vegetable broth!) With a food processor, puree every 1 quart of tomatoes with 20 – 40 leaves of basil, 4 cloves of garlic and 1 – 2 tsp. of salt. Adjust the seasoning to your tastes. Late harvest tomatoes that don’t get the benefit of as much sunshine may also need some sweetening with up to 1 T. of sugar or honey. Freeze in serving sizes that fit your family’s needs. When you thaw the sauce for use, you may need to add more salt to your taste. Another great addition is crushed fennel seeds, about ½ tsp per cup of sauce.
Italian Sauce – Drain the oven roasted tomatoes in a colander for at least 15 minutes. If you like thicker sauces, drain for a few hours. Puree every 1 quart of tomatoes with 20 – 40 leaves of basil, ½ cup chopped flat leaf parsley (Italian), 20 leaves of fresh oregano, 4 cloves of garlic and 1 – 2 tsp. of salt in a food processor. Adjust the seasoning to your tastes. Freeze in portions that fit your Italian recipes. This sauce works well for lasagnas, Eggplant Parmesan, and Italian meat/vegetable sauces for pasta. Again, you’ll need to adjust the salt once you thaw the sauce.
Southwest Tomato Sauce – Throw a few Anaheim green chili peppers or Ancho chili peppers into the oven as you are roasting tomatoes. You’ll need to remove the peppers once they start to char, which can be anywhere from 15 – 30 minutes. Throw the peppers in a paper bag for at least 10 minutes to loosen the papery skin on the outside of the pepper. Remove the papery skin from the outside of the peppers as well as the seeds, inner core and stems. Drain the oven roasted tomatoes in a colander for 15 minutes. Puree 1 – 2 peppers with each 1 quart of tomatoes along with 3 – 4 cloves of garlic, 10 leaves of fresh oregano and 2 – 3 tsp. of salt. This sauce can be used in chili, Southwestern dishes, Spanish rice or a New Mexico-style enchilada or burrito sauce.
The sauce recipes above will give you a foundation for cultivating your creativity with oven-roasted tomato sauces. You will be adding to your nutritional arsenal as well as savoring the flavor of locally-grown produce. That first bite of pizza or bowl of chili on a cold winter’s night will remind you of the sweet taste of summer!