Roasting Tomatoes for Sauce

Reader Contribution by Blythe Pelham
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After my last blog, one of my editor friends at Mother Earth News asked if I ever roasted my tomatoes. I had to admit that I’d never thought of doing so other than throwing some in with my other roasted veggies that we occasionally eat for dinner. Of course, this prompted a stroll through the Internet.

I found a great many accolades about this method of processing, most alluding to some of my favorite Italian dishes. I decided to play a little. It’s easy to shift into play mode when you’re at the end of your wits and tomato season—having already processed over 350 pounds of the juicy gems.

As usual, I took what I liked from each of the sites calling my name and devised a method that works for me. Above is the photo of one version that I’ve processed (before drizzling the olive oil—a must-do if you don’t want to lose your bounty to being stuck to the paper). This batch included a variety of tomatoes, ripened orange bell peppers, cloves of garlic, and freshly picked basil and oregano leaves.

It’s important to either place like-sized tomatoes or to chop them into similar sizes when grouping them on a cookie sheet. Different sizes will roast for variable amounts of time. After washing and stemming, small cherry or pear tomatoes can be simply sliced in half and cook much more quickly than their larger cousins due to having less moisture-retaining flesh. Larger tomatoes need to be sliced thickly (my preference) or quartered and cored.

I like to give my parchment paper (lining the cookie sheet) a light brushing with olive oil before placing the tomatoes. While I haven’t had any problem with herb leaves, garlic cloves, or pepper slices overlapping my tomatoes a little, you definitely don’t want your tomatoes piled on each other. They can touch but try to keep the overlapping to a minimum.

Use a cookie sheet or pan with an edge on it because you’re going to liberally drizzle olive oil over the top of the veggies. The tomatoes will also bleed some of their moisture onto the surface as they cook down. Without a high enough edge, that liquid will end up all over the bottom of your oven.

I cook mine in the oven for 3-4 hours at 275 degrees then take out the smaller ones that have already caramelized and turn up the temperature to 325 degrees for the larger tomatoes. Once I deem them finished, I take the trays out of the oven and let them cool (see 2nd photo, above). Then they slip off the parchment and into my blender or food processor to become the lovely saucy paste you see in the last photo (below).

The smell as they are roasting is heavenly and easily softens the blow of heating the house when the summer sun is already doing a more than adequate job of that. I love that the oven is doing the bulk of the work for me rather than slaving over a hot stove while creating my canned goods. The biggest drawback is the loss in quantity. The three trays of lush tomatoes (about 15 pounds) yielded just two partially filled quart bags for freezing. Still… I will keep this method in my repertoire for something different. The rich roasted taste is definitely unlike that of my other methods.

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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