Last week my friend posted a photo of some tomatoes that she had roasted, inspired by Alice Waters, and in turn inspired me to make my own batch of roasted tomato sauce this past weekend. After reading about some methods that other food bloggers had practiced, I decided to keep the tomatoes whole, the temperature low, and the roasting time long. The rest of it would be up to the quality of the tomatoes!
On Saturday I picked up four pounds of heirloom and shady lady tomatoes from the Napa Farmers Market. I also had some vine ripened tomatoes from TJ’s, as well as some yellow cherries. Then I got some Ball Jars – and a bunch of other fantastic kitchen stuff – from Shackford’s, my newest Napa obsession. Think Sur La Table meets Ace’s Hardware, but with a warm mom-and-pop feel and small business vibe (the girl who rang me up hand wrote the bill and used an accounting calculator). And finally, after some quick Googling, I figured out how to can the proper way when making an acidic sauce. Then Sunday came, and I got to work first thing in the morning.
Roasted Tomato Sauce with Garlic and Basil (makes 9 cups, or three 24-oz jars)
- 4 lbs of tomatoes (use one variety, or combine several)
- 2 heads of garlic, peeled
- 20-30 fresh basil leaves
- 3-4 cups olive oil
- red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper
If canning or preserving infused olive oil, you will need:
- 3 mason jars fitted with a sealing lid
- A large pot (at least 3 quarts)
- sturdy tongs
- a clean dish towel
- a measuring cup with a spout
- a sieve or fine strainer
Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Remove the cores from all the larger tomatoes – cherries can stay as they are. In two deep 9×13 baking dishes, arrange tomatoes core side down, then tuck in basil and garlic between the tomatoes. Liberally add salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes if you want to heat it up a bit. Pour olive oil all over the tomatoes, so that it comes up the larger tomatoes about 1/4 of the way. Submerge the basil into the oil so that it doesn’t burn. Place in the oven and cook for 6 hours.
Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Peel off the skins of the tomatoes and discard; they should come off pretty easy with just a tug. Place peeled tomatoes in a large mixing bowl, then stir to break down the tomatoes and combine into a sauce-like substance. I reserved a jar of my sauce to eat right away, and preserved the two other jars.
I also reserved the oil that the tomatoes roasted in, and plan to use it on almost everything! Once the oil cools, set a strainer over a spouted measuring cup and pour the oil into it. The oil will rise to the top of the measuring cup, leaving the tomato juice substance on the bottom. Slowly pour the oil into the bottle, leaving the juice in the cup then discarding. Repeat until all the oil is transferred to the bottle.
As for the canning, it’s really pretty easy but it’s important to follow steps to insure you won’t be poisoning yourself and contracting botulism! When the tomatoes have about 45 minutes left to roast, fill a large pot with water (enough to cover the jars by two inches) and set to boil. In a smaller sauce pan, boil water to sterilize the lids and rings for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let them rest in the water until use. Put a clean towel on the bottom of the larger pot to protect the glass from breaking. Once boiling, carefully use tongs to add the jars, filling them with water as you slowly lower them into the pot. The towel will be moving around, but just use the jar to steady it on the bottom of the pan. Boil for ten minutes, then remove the jars with the tongs and set on a clean towel to dry. Keep the water in the pot, as you will use it later to seal the jars.
Add sauce to the sterilized jars and tightly seal. Bring the large pot of water back to a boil, and place filled jars into the pot, with two inches of water above the lids, boiling for 5-10 minutes. Remove from pot and set on a dry towel to cool. If sealed properly, the lids will not flex up and down when the center is pressed. Try to lift lids off with your fingertips. If the lid cannot be lifted off, the lid has a good seal. If a lid does not seal within 24 hours, the product can be immediately reprocessed or refrigerated. Store in a cool, dry, dark place up to 1 year – if you can wait that long!
I used my reserved sauce to put over some spaghetti for myself and a friend. I topped it with some extra sauce, chopped fresh basil, shaved Grana Padano Parmesan cheese, and extra red pepper flakes. Delicious! We both had seconds. I think this sauce would also go great on toasted baguette slices, on a pizza, over grilled Italian sausage, or any other way you like it. I can’t wait to open up another jar in the next couple of months. And I think I’ll try salsa next. Stay tuned!