Post updated September 2013
Sitting in a restaurant at the beginning of September, I overheard a waitress ask another customer, “How was your summer?”
He replied, “So far, so good.”
It made me smile. So far? Doesn’t he realize that school buses loaded with backpack-clad children are rumbling down the street as he speaks?
The more I thought about it, though, the more I had to agree with his present-tense assessment of summer. Despite the fact that school has started, early September really is prime summertime here in the Northwest. The days are comfortable and hazy. We start thinking less about travel and more about home. And our gardens and produce markets are bursting with fruits and vegetables of every shape and size.
This tomato sauce recipe features fresh produce that can be pulled out of your garden or piled into your grocery cart right now: tomatoes, garlic, onions, and basil. The tomatoes can be those sweet little cherry tomatoes or the big ugly fellas (who still have great personalities). Or a combination of the two.
Drizzle in some olive oil and a generous sprinkle of salt to round off the super simple ingredient list. Add a loaf of crusty bread and a fresh salad and dinner is served.
And the steps? They are so fast and easy. What? Are you rolling your eyes right now?
If making homemade tomato sauce calls to mind standing over a bubbling pot, stirring your afternoon away, think again. Other than piling all of the fresh ingredients into the pans, this recipe requires very little hands-on time. If you have a couple 9×13″ baking pans, a knife, and a blender or food processor you are good to go.
You can adjust everything to suit your own tastes. If you prefer a thinner sauce, bake just until the tomatoes start to burst and break down. If you like a thick, hearty sauce, then keep the pans in the oven longer, stirring occasionally. The ingredients will simmer down to a slightly sticky, sweet sauce. Once it’s pureed with the fresh basil, the sauce will be bursting with flavor and you will be swearing off store-bought sauce for life.
Up to your eyeballs in tomatoes right now? This is a great recipe to make in big batches and freeze for later use as pasta or pizza sauce or soup base. You can freeze it in containers or bags pressed flat to stack easily in your freezer.
This is definitely one of my favorite things to have stashed away in the freezer to create hot pizza, lasagna, or soup on those gray winter days. It instantly takes me back to the best days of summer. You know, September.
Roasted Marinara Sauce
The amounts listed in this recipe are just a good place to start.
Adjust the ingredients to suit your tastes.
8 c. cherry tomatoes or 24 medium tomatoes
2 medium onions, quartered
8-10 garlic cloves, peeled
1-3 cans tomato paste, optional
- Wash and stem the cherry tomatoes or wash and core the whole tomatoes. Split them evenly, in a single layer, between 2 9×13″ baking dishes. The larger tomatoes can be left whole; they will break down during the roasting process. Toss the quartered onions and peeled garlic cloves evenly between the two pans. Drizzle with olive oil and season generously with salt.
- Roast at 425 for 30-40 minutes. The timing isn’t an exact science. The combination will smell incredibly fragrant, and the tomatoes and onions will look wrinkled, roasted, and slightly charred. For a thicker sauce, cook longer and stir occasionally to keep from burning. Remove the pans from the oven and set on the counter to cool for 10-15 minutes.
- Place a large colander inside a large bowl and dump the pans into the colander to strain out the juice. Set the juice aside.
- Scoop the tomato mixture into the bowl of a blender or food processor; add the basil leaves. Puree until it reaches the desired consistency. Dump the pureed tomato sauce into the reserved juice and stir until thoroughly combined. Season with additional salt, if needed. (You could also add tomato paste if you desire a thicker sauce.)
- Serve immediately as pasta or pizza sauce or freeze in plastic containers or bags for later use.
If you need more Italian inspiration, check out the Everyday Italian: 125 Simple and Delicious Recipes cookbook by Giada de Laurentiis.
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