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~ When Life Hands You a Basket of Grape Tomatoes: Get Sauced - Make a Batch of Oven-Roasted Magic ~

IMG_2888Savvy cooks all know that roasting tomatoes (which contain quite a bit of natural sugar) concentrates their flavor, rendering them a truly succulent and sweet ingredient with a myriad of uses:  condiments, dips, salsas, sauces, soups and side-dishes to name a few.  If you are a tomato lover like me, this is great news because high-quality store-bought tomatoes can be transformed into a tasty treat with some EVOO, an herb, a spice or two, and, a stint in the oven.

IMG_3536Unless you live in an area where high-quality store-bought tomatoes, like Campari tomatoes, ("the tomato lovers tomato") are available, the end of the Summer tomato season is depressing.  Unless I miss my guess, you'll be relying on the small, sweet, always-tasty cherry or grape tomato to satisfy your tomato cravings until next year.  FYI:

Little tomatoes transform into a lovely, luscious sauce!

IMG_2758If that surprises you, be prepared to fall in love with my "secret" recipe:

IMG_2729I'm using grape tomatoes today because this is what my husband grows in his garden and we've had a banner year.  Ever wondered what ten pounds of grape tomatoes looks like?  This is it!

A bit about cherry and grape tomatoes:  Obviously, cherry tomatoes got their name because they look like cherries and grape tomatoes got theirs because they look like grapes.  Grape tomatoes are smaller than cherry tomatoes and have smaller, tenderer, less bitter seeds as well.  Grape tomatoes have a slightly thicker skin, are a bit more acidic (less sweet), and are meatier (less watery).  When it comes to roasting, this is why I prefer the grape tomato to the cherry tomato, but, don't let that worry you in the least if you've got a yard full of cherry tomatoes.  The two can be used interchangeably in any recipe that calls for skewering whole, slicing or dicing, but, cherry tomatoes should always be the choice for hollowing out and stuffing with things like chicken, tuna or egg salad for hors d'oeuvres  -- I've done all of the above many times.  

Cherry & grape tomatoes are Summer in a basket all year long!!!

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c6da34fc970b~ Step 1.  In the largest roasting pan you can beg, borrow or buy (mine is approximately 17" x 13" x 3"), place:

10  pounds grape or cherry tomatoes, there is no need to slice them in half.

~ Step 2.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees with oven rack in center.

IMG_2738~ Step 3.  Add and stir thoroughly:

1  cup olive oil

2  tablespoons dried oregano

2  tablespoons sugar

2  tablespoons sea salt 

1  tablespoon coarsely-ground black pepper

1  tablespoon red pepper flakes

IMG_2749~ Step 4.  Chop, add and thoroughly stir into the mixture:

1  pound chopped yellow or sweet onion

4  ounces diced or chopped garlic cloves

2  ounces chiffonade of fresh basil leaves

IMG_2757~ Step 5.  Place on center rack of preheated oven and lower temperature to 375 degrees.  Roast for 1 hour, stopping to stir with a spoon every 15 minutes. 

Note:  Tomatoes are going to roast for 1 1/2+ hours and will require stirring every 15 minutes.  This requires opening the IMG_2767oven door, which will cause the temperature to fluctuate between 350 and 375 degrees. Don't worry about it!

~ Step 6.  After 1 hour, remove from oven and gently stir in a  6-ounce can tomato paste.  Don't over incorporate it.  Allow it to remain in small lumps.  Roast another 30-45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.  

Tomatoes will be bursting, mixture will be thick and nicely caramelized throughout:

IMG_2815The bottom of the roasting pan won't have any excess or soupy liquid in it:

IMG_2791Allow to cool in pan, about 15 minutes while cooking and draining 1 pound of farfalle pasta:  

Note:  Stranded pasta, like spaghetti, fettuccini and linguini are fine for smooth, free-flowing sauces, but chunky sauces like this one need a pasta shape that can hold it on the trip from the plate to the mouth.  Farfalle (bow ties) are my choice for this dish, but other fork-friendly pasta like corkscrews, radiators or wagon wheels work great too.  Because this sauce contains very little liquid, I don't recommend orecchiette, penne or shells which are built to trap excess liquid. 


Gently toss, as you would a salad, 3 cups sauce into the cooked pasta:  

IMG_2851Top each of 4 servings w/1/4 cup additional sauce and grated parmigianno-reggiano:

IMG_2864Click on the Related Article Link below to get my 15 minute recipe for:

IMG_2833~ Farfalle w/Butter, Basil, Peperoncino & Parmesan ~ 

Now, go, eat:

IMG_2898When Life Hands you a Basket of Grape Tomatoes:  Get Sauced - Make a Batch of Oven-Roasted Magic:  Recipe yields 3 quarts of sauce with 1-quart being enough to sauce and top 1-pound of fork-friendly pasta/4 servings. 

Special Equipment List:  17" x 13" x 3" roasting pan;  cutting board; chef's knife; large spoon; 8-quart stockpot for cooking pasta; colander for draining pasta

IMG_2885Cook's Note:  Because this sauce is bathed in olive oil, it keeps beautifully in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.  I recommend reheating it in the microwave rather than on the stovetop.  It does not freeze well.  In addition to being a decadent pasta sauce, it is also a lovely topping for broiled white fish.  

To turn it into a dip for cheese or vegetables, or, use as a spread or topping for crostini, place a cup or two in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until smooth.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)


Teresa -- I am so happy you (the master-gardener extraordinaire) got to try this vine-to-table recipe. I adore grape tomatoes for their super-sweetness. I'm glad Mike gave the recipe his seal-of-approval too. Sauce on my friend!!!

Mel, life handed me a basket of Sun Gold cherry tomatoes. They are an exceptionally sweet and flavorful favorite varietal of mine, so I thought it was fitting to make a smaller batch of your magic recipe. What I liked about yours is the addition of the tomato paste mostly, but also the onion flavor. The paste adds a another layer of sweetness, but also a velvety emulsified texture to the sauce that you don't get with fresh tomatoes alone. We loved it. Mike is not a fan of fresh tomatoes, but even Mikey liked yours. :)

Peter -- lucky YOU finding all of those tomatoes. I'm certain that after you taste them in this recipe all of those trips to the car will have been worthwhile. Mangia!!!

I found about 12 lbs. of Grape tomatoes outside my Dr.'s office at the VA growing in the corner and had to take them home. It took about 12 trips to the car and i found a clean pair of socks from my gym bag to transport the tomatoes.

After cleaning tonight, will try the recipe tomorrow. These neglected tomatoes will now be part of a good meal. Even have the Riggano in the fridge and a basil plant in the backyard.

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