One of the best times of the year (at least now that I live somewhere warm all year round) is the transitional time between summer and fall. The farmer's markets are in a weird limbo state of the summer's ripest berries, and autumnal squash peeking its way in. This, the time of lingering humidity and starting school, is the very best time to find tomatoes.
Tomatoes are the type of produce that you absolutely must buy in season. I know that there may be tomatoes in the supermarket all year long, but they are absolute trash. Harsh words, but it is true, when you taste the difference between a tomato in its peak season. If you still want to enjoy tomatoes in January, reach for the cherry or grape tomatoes, they can still pull their weight in the coldest of days. But heirloom, roma, beefsteak, and all of the meatiest of tomatoes should only be consumed during their season. These are the tomatoes that are juicy, perfectly ripe, and incredibly sweet. They transform any dish into something whimsical and romantic. Deep in umami, our household has been consuming them by the pounds, sometimes in my best tomato summer salad, and sometimes in this all purpose tomato sauce. Deceptively simple, this sauce celebrates every part of the tomato.
Pure ingredients, the technique of this sauce is what makes the flavors sing. Fresh rosemary and thyme, with the hint of butter, you may be tempted to stand over the stove spooning this addictive dish into your mouth. My farmer says we have a few more weeks with my absolute favorite heirloom tomatoes, so I have been taking advantage and making this sauce the last few weeks. I plan on making a bunch next weekend and tossing it in the freezer so I have it long after the rows of tomatoes have disappeared. I have plans to add a nice cream, or coconut cream to turn this into a silky soup. Feel free to use this in lasagna, add your favorite Italian ground beef, toss it with noodles plain, OR you can pair it with my favorite Baked Grain Free Turkey Meatballs. They are juicy, wonderfully spiced, and pair perfectly with subtly sweet sauce.
And I mean sweet in the best of ways, this is a natural sweetness brought on by the in season tomatoes. The sauce color will vary based on your heirlooms as well, ranging from a light orange, to a deep red. You do not HAVE to use heirloom tomatoes, but I suggest at least half of them to be heirloom. I have mixed and matched, early girls are a perfect compliment to the plump heirlooms.
The sauce itself seems like it takes a long time, but it is at most maybe 10-12 minutes of hands on work. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees, remove the tops of the tomato cores, you can just slice the tops off, or use a pairing knife to remove the tough core on top. See below:
You don't want the tough cores in sauce when you blend it, with the smaller tomatoes (early girls) you don't really have to core them. They are fine as is, or barely trimmed. Lightly oil with extra virgin olive oil, and season with salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Roast in the oven until they release their juices or are completely soft and slightly deflated. Depending on how much you are roasting or how large your tomatoes are, this can take anywhere from 35 minutes-to 1 hour. My last batch the tomatoes were extremely large so they took about an hour. You want them to resemble the tomatoes below (easily smushed with a fork):
Remove the tomatoes from the stove, and let it cool so it is not steaming any longer. Take all the tomatoes and put them in a food processor. You want to scrape all the browned bits off the bottom and make sure to get all of the juice into the processor. Process the tomatoes until smooth.
Put a deep, stainless steel skillet (4 qt works), or a pot on the stove and heat on low. Splash a little olive oil in the pan, and put 1 tablespoon of butter in the pan, and melt. Add the fresh thyme (about 5-6 thin sprigs) and fresh rosemary (3 sprigs), cook the herbs in the butter (try to keep them all in a pile together for easier removal. After about 1 minute, add in the blended tomatoes. Simmer on low, until just bubbling, for about 15 minutes, stirring the herbs into the sauce. After 15 minutes, remove the herbs with a fork or tongs carefully (it is okay if there a few small pieces of rosemary or thyme leaves leftover) and then season with salt. Add a pinch, stir, then taste, and bring up the salt level to your desire. The salt changes the flavor as well, so make sure the sauce is balanced. It won't take too much, the roasting gives it a lot of flavor.
Ways to enjoy this sauce:
- Pair it with my favorite Baked Grain Free Turkey Meatballs
- Use it on your favorite pizza dough
- Swirl it into all type of noodles, or zucchini noodles
- Make a meatball sub
- Add cream or coconut cream at the end and turn it into a simple tomato soup
- Recreate favorite lasagna or stuffed shells
- Chicken Parmesan is amazing with this, especially with spinach
This sauce is so incredibly addicting, you will want to pour it over everything! This is the type of dish that completely floors me, as it is just a few simple ingredients, but the taste is so rich, and nuanced. This is perfect example of all the work of seasonal tomatoes, roasting to perfection. If you make one tomato dish this year, let it be this!
No Sugar Added Sweet Tomato Sauce
Author: Allie Brendel
Roasted sweet heirloom tomatoes at the peak of the season are transformed into a sweet, naturally creamy sauce. Drench meatballs and noodles in this sauce, or turn it into a soup.
Makes: 2.5 cups
- 4 lbs heirloom tomatoes
- 2-3 stems of fresh rosemary
- 5-6 thin stems of fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon of grass fed butter
- 4 cloves of fresh garlic, smashed and minced
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Salt & Fresh Cracked Black Pepper to taste
- Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Wash the tomatoes, and slice the tops of the tomatoes off (like the picture) or remove just as much of the core that you can.
- Wash the green beans thoroughly. Trim off the ends/stems, but keep them long instead of halving.
- Place them in a deep dish (9x13 works well), lightly oil the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper.
- Roast the tomatoes in the oven until they are completely soft, mine have varied from 40 minutes to an hour. See photos in the post for a visual, this creates a rich, sweet, umami flavor.
- Remove from pan, and let cool until they are no longer steaming.
- Place tomatoes with all of their juices in a food processor and blend until smooth (if you need to, if there are any browned good bits from the bottom and put in the food processor as well).
- Place a deep stainless steel pan and heat on low, splash a little olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in the pan and beging to melt.
- Toss in the fresh herbs, and cook in the butter for 1 minute, stirring to coat them.
- Pour in the blended tomato sauce over the herbs, and simmer so the sauce is just bubbling for about 15 minutes.
- Remove the herbs carefully with a fork, or tongs. Season with salt, season in sections and taste after adding a pinch every so often.
- Simmer for additional 5 minutes or so, and remove from heat. Add sauce to meatballs, or ground turkey, add cream at the end to create a silky, tomato soup perfect for the fall.