I bought the tomatoes because they were lovely, but also because I was super-excited at the possibilities for solar tomato sauce. A fascinating idea, I thought, and what a way to have dinner ready in a hurry, just boil some pasta et voila! And then the sky turned grey for the first time in a long, long time and the heat wave broke and the long-range forecast whined rain for the next seven days and I still had the tomatoes, and then Rose at work brought me a bouquet of basil. And then everything was glorious.
So, inspired in part by a recipe in this month’s Gourmet and in part by an unsatisfied desire to get to the essence of tomatoes through a batch of solar sauce, I’ve improvised some. And it worked out well. Very well. You will soon find an abundance of little tomatoes at your local market, and this is what you should do with some of them. About 1.5 pounds of them.
(If you’re like me, you’ll want a meatball or two to go along with things. Use this recipe. Add a little bit of spinach and lemon zest. Make the peperonata another time, and eat it cold with crusty bread.)
Make this in a pot you can use on the stove AND in the oven. It works better that way, and is less mess. Also, while I insist you try this with little tomatoes, you don’t have to. I was just lazy and didn’t want to bother with the whole blanching/skinning thing, which I kind of feel obligated to do when the tomatoes are bigger.
Tomato sauce that tastes like tomatoes
- 1.5 to 2 lbs. fresh cherry tomatoes (or other small tomatoes)
- 1 bulb of garlic
- 1/4 cup good olive oil
- 2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
- 2 tsp. red chili flakes
Preheat your oven to 400°F.
Halve your little tomatoes, and trim the top off the bulb of garlic. Place your tomatoes in the pot, with the garlic right smack in the middle, and then drizzle the oil over top. Add a teaspoon of the salt, and toss into the oven, where you will bake the whole thing, covered, for thirty minutes.
Place the pot on the stove, over medium to medium-low heat. You don’t need the thing to reach a rolling boil. Remove the garlic, and squish the cloves out into the pot. You may want to wait until it’s cool enough to handle – I used a clean dish cloth as a barrier against the heat. The cloves should pop out easily.
At this point, you are going to want to puree the contents of your pot. I recommend using a hand blender, because that’s the best way to keep a bit of texture – you could also use a food mill, a food processor, or a blender. If you’ve removed the mix from the pot to blend, return it to the pot. Taste, add the remainder of the salt and any more if you feel it needs it, and your pepper flakes, and simmer over medium to medium-low heat for another 30 to 40 minutes.
Boil a pot of pasta (about one pound uncooked) until cooked to your liking, and then toss the noodles into the sauce pot and make sure every noodley strand is covered in fantastic tomatoey goodness.
Serve with chopped fresh basil, a dollop of ricotta, and/or your favourite shaved parmesan cheese. And meatballs. But you knew that.
I am completely in love with this tomato sauce, because it tastes exactly like tomatoes, which, especially at this time of year, taste exactly like meaty summer sun, to me. And the garlic adds a nice bit of body, and is not aggressive. The roasting and simmering makes it sweet, so that it plays a supporting role here, heightening the taste of the tomatoes. It’s really very lovely. Go out and make this. Especially if it’s raining – the smell … the smell! The wafting, beautiful aromas of this sauce will make your home smell like all the best parts of your garden, roasting. It’s compliment sauce. As in, everyone who eats this will compliment you on your awesome talent and probably also your incredible good looks, and you will taste it and fall in love with yourself all over again. Sigh!