15–20 Roma tomatoes (about 7 pounds) 2 tbsp olive oil 3 tbsp chopped fresh basil or oregano
(less if using dried herbs)
2 cloves garlic, minced 2 medium onions, chopped into eight pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepping them is simple. It helps to have one large bowl to place everything into so that you can add all the ingredients and stir them together. However, you can also just mix each pan separately as you go. Cut the smaller tomatoes into quarters, and larger ones into eight pieces. Either place in individual dishes or in a large bowl. Chop onions into large pieces, and add to bowl or pans along with minced garlic, basil, salt and pepper and olive oil. It’s important to be generous with the amount of olive oil used as you need to coat the tomatoes and the dish so that the ingredients roast, rather than burn.
As these aren’t shelf stable and you don’t have to carefully follow the recipe to make it safe for canning, there’s lots of room for adjustments according to your taste. Feel free to add more basil or less onion or another pepper mix you love. It’s possible to use beefsteak tomatoes instead of romas, but they have higher water content and will take longer to roast than romas.
Place the pans into a 350-degree oven and prepare to stick close to home, as it generally takes somewhere between 2 and 3 hours – especially if you have filled your oven and layered 3 or 4 trays on the oven racks.. Set your timer so you don’t forget, and stir every 30 minutes or so – this speeds up the evaporation process and helps them roast evenly. They are done when the majority of the liquid is evaporated and the tomatoes have some char spots on them.
Allow to cool in the pans, and divide into freezer-safe zip-lock bags. I usually put about 1 cup of the roasted romas in each bag. Squeeze the air out of bags to flatten them, and don’t forget to label the bags with the contents!
I can’t think of another preserved item that brings me as much joy to cook with in winter than these roasted Roma tomatoes. Not quite sun-dried, but thicker than a jar of canned tomatoes, whenever I want to ramp up the flavour of a tomato-based sauce or create a flatbread everyone will love, I dip into my precious stash in the freezer. Since it’s not canned, there is no boiling water bath to contend with, and once you’ve got everything chopped, all it takes is some glass pans, time at home and your occasional attention to stir them.
Concentrating the flavour with the long roasting time ensures there is no loss of quality in taste or texture so they’re perfect for the freezer. I love these so much I usually roast 40 pounds each summer.
One key is to start with really ripe tomatoes, so purchase your tomatoes a few days in advance so they all have a consistently rich, red colour.
Glass or porcelain dishes like a Le Creuset baking pan work much better than metal pans for this, as the thin metal pans tend to blacken the tomatoes too much before all the liquid has had a chance to evaporate. I line my pans with parchment paper for easier cleanup, but it’s not necessary. I’ve successfully used my stainless steel roasting pan as it’s thick metal, but avoid using cake pans or black enamel pans. You’ll need six pans for 20 pounds of tomatoes.
Their true glory is in their versatility and the many different dishes you can enhance with their rich roasted flavour.
As a base for soup
Added to a tin of diced tomatoes for a pasta sauce