Sometime in October, my Mommom mailed me a large Tupperware container of homemade roasted cherry tomato sauce. This sauce was bursting with wonderful flavors: earthy garlic, sun-kissed tomatoes, and herbaceous oregano. What made this sauce 10x better was that these tomatoes, all 5 kinds, were from my Mommom’s own garden. There is nothing better than “farm-to-table”, it all just tastes better.
I have such fond memories of wandering up and down the rows of my grandparents large garden. My Poppop with a straw hat shading his tan face while he worked his big blue tractor, such a magnificently bright blue that it almost matched the vibrancy of his blue eyes. I would pick the various vegetables off their stocks, snack on what I could, and bring the rest in for Mommom.
My friend Melody and I ended up eating the entire container of sauce with a whole box of pasta that night. The only regret I had was that there was no more, the bottom of that container glared up at me from the sink.
I tried to recreate that sauce for my Holiday party, I will admit that it is not the same as what my Mommom sent me. But it is pretty damn good.
Roasted Tomato & Garlic Pasta Sauce
3 Pints Cherry Tomatoes
5 Tbsp Olive Oil
7 Whole Cloves Garlic
2 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Pepper
2 Tsp Dried Oregano
2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
28 Oz Canned Crushed Tomatoes
¼ C Brandy
Yields 64 Oz, because when does anyone make a little bit of sauce
Begin by preheating your oven to 350℉ with a rack placed in the middle, we are going to be making our whole sauce in the oven using a Dutch Oven so make sure you make some space for that large pot.
There is this Hispanic produce market in Andersonville, a Chicago neighborhood down the street from my own, that I absolutely love. The produce always looks great, you can find some obscure things there, and it won’t cost you fancy market prices. The weather has been unseasonably warm this December so I did not mind taking the one-mile walk through residential streets to do my grocery shopping. And the way that I am walking lately that is quite an accomplishment.
I am still deep in physical therapy to help fix my once broken ankle and I still walk with a slight limp. Trust me it is getting better. On my walk home, fresh dill in hand, this stranger decided to point it out to me “oh, you have a boo-boo foot huh?” I have been living in the Mid-West 3.5 years and I am still getting used to strangers talking to me and being kind about it. I am sure she meant no ill will but I had to force my East-Coast-ness down and not say something snippy in return. But seriously, no I am walking this way for the fun of it. But I digress…
In your Dutch Oven empty the contents of your cherry tomatoes. Using the blunt edge of a knife and the heel of your hand smoosh each clove of garlic to release the meat from its skin. Toss the whole cloves in with your tomatoes. Drizzle with a hefty amount of olive oil and sprinkle with seasonings until everything is sufficiently covered.
Place Dutch Oven, uncovered, into your hot oven for 20 minutes, give a few stirs and return to your oven for another 20 minutes.
Once your tomatoes are beginning to split open add crushed tomatoes, brandy, and tomato paste.
Tip: bought a whole can of tomato paste and only need a few Tbsp? Lay out plastic wrap, spoon out single Tbsp portions 2” apart. Fold edges of plastic wrap over your spoonfuls, use a pair of scissors to cut between the scoops, then fold those ends over as well. Now you have wrapped up individually portioned paste to put in your freezer until you need it again. Don’t just leave the can in your fridge gathering mold.
Place the whole pot back into your oven, uncovered, for another 30 minutes. Remove from oven and fish out those large cloves of garlic. If they can easily be pierced through with your knife place them in a blender or food processor or magic bullet...whatever has fast moving blades. Blend garlic until it forms a smooth paste. Garlic can be a great emulsifier and will work to thicken the sauce alongside the tomato paste while also providing amazing flavor.
I rediscovered this fact while reading Cook’s Illustrated September/October 2018 edition. My friend Kelly lovingly signed me up for this subscription and I am in heaven reading it, my mom used to get this magazine. I also learned on Sunday that I may be getting a little too into cooking when I brought this magazine up to Bill and he immediately asked if there were images of onions suntanning in bikinis. No Bill, great image, but no.
Cook’s Illustrated reads that garlic helps “blend fat and water into a creamy sauce, possibly due to some of the sulfur compounds that are formed when its cells are ruptured.” This pulls the sauce together and changes it from a sad watery shadow of what it could be to a lovely thick sauce full of flavor.
After your garlic is incorporated return to the oven for another 15 minutes.
As I warned, this makes a lot of sauce. I was able to give two 16Oz jars as Christmas gifts to a coworker while also having plenty for dinner for 10 people. The sauce will stay good in the refrigerator for about 4 days in an airtight container, any longer you can store in your freezer.
Enjoy with freshly grated parmesan cheese and bright green basil.