July 12, 2011

Quick Fix Dinners: Summer Roasted Tomato Sauce

Tomatoes are beginning to roll into the farmer's market in the city. Perhaps more than anything, tomatoes are an icon of summer, signaling that the season has reached its ripest point. No two tomatoes are the same. Each tomato has its own sweetness, acidity and flavor. There are beefsteak tomatoes to slide atop a burger, small cherry tomatoes to adorn a light salad, and a diversity of heirloom tomatoes that rivals the selection of the deepest wine cellar.

Tomatoes at a market in Italy.
To welcome the season of tomatoes, here's a simple recipe for tomato sauce. There are countless ways to make tomato sauce, but this one maintains the unique flavor of the tomatoes used, adding no more than olive oil, salt and pepper. I like to use a mix of heirloom tomatoes for this. Any tomato will work, but remember that the flavor of the final sauce will be influenced by what you use. If you like a sweeter, tarter sauce, use cherry tomatoes. For a more classic "Italian" taste, Roma or San Marzano tomatoes work well. Feel free to experiment around by adding some garlic or onion when roasting, or a splash of vinegar at the end.  Summer tomatoes should lend a natural sweetness to your sauce, but if you aren't getting the results you want, add a dash of sugar (I wont tell).

Summer Roasted Tomato Sauce

-2-3 pounds tomatoes, larger tomatoes cut into wedges, smaller tomatoes halved
-4 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
-a healthy toss of salt and pepper
-1 pound pasta (penne works well), cooked according to box to al dente
-fresh basil, torn into pieces (optional)
-grated parmigiano, for serving

-Preheat your oven to 350.

-On a baking sheet, arrange the tomatoes in a single layer. Coat with olive oil, salt and pepper.

-Roast the tomatoes in the oven until they are thoroughly cooked through but not browning, 10-30 minutes depending on the size of the tomatoes. They should be completely soft but not breaking apart.

-Remove the tomatoes from the oven and place in a food processor or blender, being sure to scrape in the olive oil from the pan. Blend until fully pureed. Add more olive oil, salt or pepper to taste.

- Mix the sauce and the pasta and garnish with torn basil and parmigiano. Serve at once.

Variation for a creamier sauce: After the sauce has been pureed, place in a small saucepan over low heat. Add 2-3 tablespoons of cream or half and half, and stir in until warmed.  Depending on the type of tomato you use, the sauce will take on a vibrant orange color.

Serves 4.