Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Roasted Tomato-Basil Sauce

roasted tomato basil marinara sauce
Slow-simmered homemade tomato sauce for spaghetti, pasta and other recipes is one of my favorite things to cook on a weekend or whenever I have enough time. Normally I start with a pot of raw tomatoes cooking on my stove along with some sauteed garlic and onion, a splash of red wine, a few herbs and seasonings, and sometimes a supplementary can of good Italian tomatoes or a little tomato paste.

This time, however, having read Debbie Matthews' recipe for Market Marinara published in the Durham Herald-Sun, I was inspired to begin by roasting the tomatoes, onion and garlic in my oven. Debbie's recipe became the basis for the following roasted tomato & basil sauce. I tinkered slightly with the ingredients based on my taste preferences, and also had to increase the oven temperature because at the original 300°F it took over 2 hours for my vegetables to soften enough. My oven is not exactly reliable when it comes to lower temperatures (it's old and cranky, sometimes downright cantankerous), so you might want to try the original temperature first and then raise it if necessary if the vegetables are taking too long to roast.

In the end, the recipe below yielded over 1 1/2 quarts of velvety, voluptuous tomato sauce that perfumed the air with a sumptuous, seductive aroma as it cooked. We enjoyed the sauce over the course of several days on everything from pasta and meatballs to cabbage rolls, in an Italian-style summer squash & beef casserole, and even as a dip for chunks of my basil beer bread. The sauce will keep for at least a few days in your refrigerator, or you can can it in jars for longer storage if you're a canner.

4 pounds ripe tomatoes (I used mostly slicer-type tomatoes and some Romas)
30 cloves garlic, peeled
tomatoes1 medium yellow onion
1 cup fresh basil leaves, as loosely or tightly packed as you like
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper*
Crushed red pepper flakes to taste (I like 1/4 tsp for a bit of a feisty finish)

*Instead of using a pepper mill, I ground the peppercorns by hand using a mortar and pestle for a coarser consistency.

Quarter the tomatoes, and peel the onion and quarter then cut each quarter in half. Toss all of this into a very large, heavy oven-safe pot (I use my professional quality Calphalon® stock pot). Preheat oven to 350°F. Add the garlic to the pot, drizzle with olive oil, pour in the wine, season with salt & pepper, then stir with a large spoon or heavyweight spatula until the vegetables are well-coated. Place the uncovered pot in the oven (you may need to remove a rack and reposition the remaining one on the lowest set of rungs) and roast until everything is softened (at least 1 hour), stirring every 20 to 30 minutes.

Kershaw Knives Select 100 Mortar and PestleWhile the tomatoes et al. are roasting, chop or chiffonade the basil. Once the tomatoes are falling apart and the onions & garlic are soft, carefully remove the pot from the oven and place on a burner on your stove. Use a stick blender (hand-held immersion blender) to puree everything until smooth -- or, ladle into your blender to puree (you'll probably need to work in batches) then transfer back into the pot.

Add the basil and oregano to the pot, stir and bring to a light simmer on your stove over medium-low heat. Taste for balance and add more salt or pepper or herbs if desired. You can keep simmering if you prefer a thicker texture: The longer the sauce simmers, the thicker the sauce will get. Just be careful to keep it at barely a simmer because you don't want to ruin the flavor by scorching the sauce.

Zestfully yours,
Carolina Sauce Company

PS: Stay tuned to this blog because I will soon be posting the recipes for Greg's chunky meatballs served with roasted tomato & basil sauce, as well as the squash & beef casserole.

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