An easy and delicious way to process Summer’s bounty!

Roma tomatoesAlmost every backyard gardener grows tomatoes. Their plump red-orange globes are one of the signs that summer is in full swing. In Seattle, with our typically cool nights and short growing season, we were lucky if we had tomatoes to harvest by August. The last few years, however, have been different, and tomatoes are ripening sooner than ever. I got my first one today—July 9—and decided it was time to write about my favorite way to preserve them.

I put in anywhere from eight to ten plants—primarily Romas, with one or two heirloom. I’m half-Italian, so tomato sauce was a staple when I was growing up. My grandmother made homemade pasta for the whole family every Sunday. She’d always give me a hunk of Italian bread and a small bowl of sauce to tide me over till dinner; it was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten.

Grandma’s sauce was always made with fresh tomatoes—or ones she had canned the previous summer. I loved her “ragu,” but often don’t have the time to go through the canning process to make my own—blanching, skinning and seeding tomatoes is a lot of work. I was thrilled when a friend shared a terrific recipe for roasted sauce that eliminates that step—and it’s vegan! Though you can serve with meat or cheese if you prefer.

pans of tomatoes with basil drizzleThe original recipe is by Marcella Rosen from the book Pasta and Company By Request. No longer in print, it is available from third-party sellers via Amazon, but can be hard to find. Get yourself a copy if you can. I’ve modified it a bit over the years and offer you my version here as a downloadable PDF: GQ Recipe Roasted Tomato Sauce.

The beauty of the recipe is that it is both easy and delicious—and uses my other summer favorite, fresh basil! I’m guilty of planting far more basil than one family can ever use (even with freezing and making mass quantities of pesto), so I’m always looking for recipes that use a lot of it, and this one does.

bowls of cherry and plum tomatoesThe basics are simple: halve tomatoes and squeeze out as many seeds as you can. Place cut-side up in a lightly oiled baking dish and drizzle with a basil/garlic/olive oil mixture, slow roast for two–three hours, whir up in a food processor. Though Romas or plum tomatoes work best, I found that any tomato works. I’ve even used cherries when I’ve had a bumper crop!

The result is a thick, robust sauce that can pair with pasta, bread, grilled veggies—almost anything you can imagine. As is, it is completely vegan—the way I prefer my food these days. It also freezes beautifully and can be thinned with store-bought sauce (I use Muir Glen organic) for a more traditional consistency, or as a base for primavera or meat sauce, if you prefer.

Buon appetito!