Simply Perfect Roasted Tomato Sauce

What else is there to do in the middle of a heatwave besides cook?  The kitchen is hot anyway and time is closing in on the grand finale of the gardening season—  who needs the beach?

I harvested about a bushel of basil, a gallon or so of cherry tomatoes, and a handful of banana peppers from my own garden.  I also had the opportunity to raid (with permission) my vacationing neighbors’ garden for anything ready to eat, so I stuffed my giant wicker basket with dozens of ripe tomatoes, fat peaches, thick leaves of kale, and a dizzying array of hot and sweet peppers.  There was so much that I needed an extra shopping bag to lug it all home.

Such bounty!  I made four batches of my creamy, dreamy vegan pesto and tossed them in the chest freezer for winter use.  I made a double batch of kale pesto and brought some to my wonderful neighbor and friend Debbie (who got me into the neighbors’ garden). I gave pints of cherry or “pop” (because you pop them into your mouth!) tomatoes to my friends Jayne and Jean.  I doled out sweet bell peppers and fat green cucumbers, handfuls of parsley and lime basil.  But I hoarded the 40 or so tomatoes from the neighbors’ yard all for us.  Next winter, on cold Friday nights, my family will eat this thick, sweet sauce spread on homemade whole wheat pizza dough.  We will add roasted eggplant, caramelized onions, and maybe some vegan sausage.  We will heat this sauce and fill a beautiful pottery bowl with it, and offer warm pita crackers to dip as an appetizer for dinner guests.  When no one is home, I will warm a small container and eat it just by itself, plunging my spoon into the rich taste of summer.  I will close my eyes and think of this hot day, and know why I chose to do cook all day long rather than frolic at the beach.

Simply Perfect Roasted Tomato Sauce


7 or 8 peeled whole cloves garlic

2 Tbsp. good quality olive oil

20 or so ripe tomatoes, any variety will do, washed and cored


Preheat oven to 250 ° F.

In a large casserole dish or pie plate, pile the whole tomatoes.  Tuck garlic cloves into spaces between tomatoes.  Drizzle with the olive oil.  Place baking vessel on a cookie sheet to catch tomato juice if pan bubbles over.  Bake in center of oven rack for 8 hours, stirring once or twice.*

Sauce is done when tomatoes are shriveled and most of the liquid is absorbed.  The skins should be very soft— you can remove them if you wish, but I usually just mash them in after I take them out of the oven.  Alternatively, process the cooled sauce in a blender or food processor until smooth.  We prefer it kind of chunky.

Honestly, this sauce does not need any salt or pepper.  The garlic and tomatoes pretty much melt together and taste perfect as is.  If you really feel compelled to add something, try a couple of tablespoonfuls of pesto after you remove the sauce from the oven.  The sauce also freezes very well, if you can manage to keep from eating it all right away.

*I have been known, on occasion, to make this sauce overnight, stirring once before going to bed, then removing it from the oven immediately in the morning.  I’m not nervous about leaving my oven on low all night.  If you are, then go with the day method.

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8 Comments on “Simply Perfect Roasted Tomato Sauce”

  1. Craig Says:

    Wow. The food processor must have been exhausted after making gallons of pesto yesterday, especially in 90 degree heat and the oven roaring over that.

    It’s funny, I was looking to see if you had posted this recipe last week so I could send it to Jonathan, our egg man, as he had mentioned that he was already getting tired of his tomatoes. I thought, this would be the perfect recipe to turn him on to. Thank you for reading our minds!

  2. […] The garden is still pumping out dozens of fat, red tomatoes, and I am still making big batches of roasted tomato sauce several times a week.  I try to get the pan in the oven right after my run so the tomatoes are […]

  3. I’m gonna do this!!!

    For 20 tomatoes, you mean 20 cherry-sized ones, right?


    • So… no, I don’t mean cherry tomatoes. I mean those big fat tomatoes, the ones that are fist-sized or even bigger. You can use cherries if you want to, but I would say to use about 4-5 dry pints. Core the big ones and wash them. Just wash the cherry tomatoes. You can puree the sauce in the blender when it’s done roasting, but we don’t. The skins kind of ‘melt’, meaning they get very soft. The cherries might need the blender or processor, as their skins can be tougher. Good luck! Let me know what you think.

  4. OK, done! Thank you, this is a really good way to use a lot of tedious tomatoes. In the end, my food mill didn’t work so well, as I wound up with tomato juice in the bowl and tomato sludge in the mill. So, I mixed them back together and arrived at a kind of spread/relish, almost like tapenade but with tomatoes instead of olives. Good on crackers. Not sure how it will be on pasta; I think I added too much olive oil. But it couldn’t be easier, and I will refine it next time around. Thanks again!

    • Jonathan,instead of the food mill, try the processor. Better yet, just use tongs to pull out the big skins and deal with the rest. It is really good on crackers, and makes a phenomenal pizza sauce! Happy harvesting! And thanks for reading! E.

  5. […] cups tomato sauce of your choice (I used the final container of last summer’s roasted tomato sauce from my garden. You can use any sauce you […]

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