As much as I love to cook, there are some kitchen tasks that I find absolutely awful. Emptying the dishwasher is one. It is one of those tasks that I simply hate. It probably has something to do with the fact that all of my cabinets and drawers are overflowing with various cooking tools, serving pieces, bakeware, and appliances — and every time I empty the dishwasher I have to unstack all of my leaning towers of cookware to find homes for things. If everything in my kitchen is clean at one time, I literally have no room for it all. Thankfully that doesn’t happen often.
My other hated tasks include anything that is fussy — like peeling pearl onions, pitting cherries, or stuffing little new potatoes or cherry tomatoes for appetizers (Which I have done exactly one time each. Never again.) This list most definitely includes peeling tomatoes. I love buying lots of extra tomatoes in the summer to freeze or make sauce, but I hate the thought of spending an afternoon in the kitchen scoring, parboiling, coring, and peeling tomatoes.
I usually do it because the thought of not having those tomatoes for my soups and sauces all winter long is too terrible. And let’s face it, for many preparations you just don’t want little tomato skin sticks in your recipes. So I suck it up and while I’m doing it, I try to channel my grandmother who would process tomatoes for what seemed like weeks on end every summer. The shelves in her basement were lined with the literal fruits of her labor.
But whenever I get a chance, I do everything in my power to skip that step. This year, I wanted to try a slow roasted sauce that didn’t force me to process all those extra pounds of tomatoes. I was really pleased with the result — the skins almost melt away after hours in the slow oven and once pureed, you’d never know they were there. And feel free to flavor the sauce any way you see fit. Obviously you could use a lot more herbs, add other vegetables (like eggplant, fresh fennel, or zucchini, etc.), cook ground beef, veal, or sausage in the final product for meat sauce, or go the fra diavlo route and spice it up with red pepper flakes or chiles.
All you need is a really big roasting pan (like what you would use for a big turkey), lots of time in the oven with the occasional stir, and a blender or immersion blender. And I promise, you won’t burn one finger trying to peel a hot tomato.
Slow Roasted Plum Tomato Sauce with Basil
Makes about 3 or 4 large jars ( or 10-12 cups of sauce)
1-2 large onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1 head of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
2-4 sweet peppers, stemmed and roughly chopped
8-10 pounds of Roma Tomatoes (that was about 36 large ones for me), cored and halved
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup of honey
1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
3 t sea salt
1-2 t freshly ground pepper
2 t dried oregano
1 t fennel seeds
2 bay leaves
3-4 T red wine
Additional Salt, Pepper, and Sugar/Honey to taste
2 big handfuls of basil, chopped
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. In a very large roasting pan, combine the onion, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, olive oil, honey, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, oregano, fennel, and bay leaves.
2. Roast tomato mixture in preheated oven for 5-6 hours, stirring every hour or so. Put your feet up and read a book while your house starts to smell delicious. Or more likely, clean your house and fold some laundry.
3. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Remove bay leaves. Puree with immersion blender or in traditional blender (cool mixture a little more if using a traditional blender and be very careful to keep lid off slightly and covered with a towel so the steam can escape).
4. Add red wine and taste for seasoning –adding more salt or pepper if needed. And if your tomatoes are on the acidic side, you might need to add more honey or sugar.
5. Stir in chopped basil and serve as is or put in containers to freeze.