What did the pasta say to the tomato?

“Don’t get saucy with me!”
t4

Being of good Italian stock, I love a good tomato sauce. Usually.

It has been a rocky on-again and off-again relationship however. In my house, we used to have chicken cacciatore, pasta and meatballs, pasta bolognese, etc. about 2-3 times a week. And that doesn’t include leftovers. You can imagine that, while delicious, I got really sick of eating pasta and a version of red sauce over and over and over again.

And then I went to New Zealand. While the the majority of the restaurants I went to had amazing Asian food, their Mediterranean selection was severely lacking. The sauce was flat, there was no spice, no heat, no round and complex flavors. It seemed to me just to be tinned tomatoes, maybe an onion and some garlic. But no basil, no rosemary, no parsley…no seasoning. It wasn’t like home (is it ever?). I mean, even the pizza was strange! Mediterranean just didn’t seem to be a common flavor skill set outside of the restaurants that I was too poor to frequent.

Now, my restaurant experience in NZ is not extensive or exhaustive, by any means. Being a poor grad student, I wasn’t throwing money at restaurants. I was too busy buying chocolate and hazelnuts and making tarts. So, I am not meaning to say that there aren’t any good Italian restaurants–just none that I was able to experience.

Of course, not being able to have such a common comfort food from home, when I talked to my parents, they mailed me a bunch of recipe cards from my under-appreciated meals from home. Definitely a welcome package, let me tell you. I also got rain gear in that package. Wellington is very wet in the winter.

So, since my dining out experience was a no go, we made Family Dinners. When it was my night to make dinner for my flatmates, chicken cacciatore was the most requested meal I made. We all had our strengths, and that was mine. Armed with the sauce recipe from home, I would set to work with my chicken, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, and onions. And while my sauce was NEVER as good as my dad’s (who usually makes Sunday and Tueday pasta dinners), it was still a flavor from home. I could sit with my flatmates, and eat too much pasta, and drink a few glasses of wine to keep warm, and take a break from the hectic Master’s life on a Sunday evening. It was a little piece of my US family that I was able to share with my NZ family.

It was one of my favorite parts of my time down there.

Now that I am back home, I get pasta all the time again, but I don’t take it for granted anymore. Well, sometimes I do….but, since we don’t eat it nearly as much, it’s not as bad.

I’ve been experimenting with pasta sauce, and I’ve come up with something that I love. Roasting my own tomatoes, peppers, garlic, and herbs to create the sauce. It makes this wonderfully complex, sweet, savory sauce that goes with everything from eggs to salad to pasta. Yes. I put sauce on everything.

Have you ever had a kitchen sink meatball salad? If you haven’t it, educate yourself. It’s wonderful. At least point, I’ve enlightened several people to the cult  that is the meatball salad. Including my boyfriend and his family.

Anyway, back to the roasting tomatoes. It is super simple to do, and really adds a fabulous punch to your homemade sauce. They are also tasty on crusty bread as a bruschetta, or straight out of the oven over salad, or pasta. Or mix them in to a soup. The possabilities for using fresh roasted tomatoes are endless.

This recipe is incredibly simple. Cut up some tomatoes. Drizzle a pan with olive oil and throw the cut veg in. Throw in the over for a couple hours. Take out and eat. It’s actually that easy.

I know with our CSA we’ve been getting a boatload of tomatoes. This is a fabulous way to put them to use.

Seriously, why haven’t you made this yet?

Roasted Tomatoes

Ingredients

t1

4 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and  sliced
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
a few sprigs of fresh parsley
a few leaves of fresh basil, torn
salt and freshly cracked pepper
1.5 to 2 pounds tomatoes (10-12 medium tomatoes)
1 pepper, thinly sliced (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 325ºF (165ºC.)
  2. Make sure your produce is washed.
  3. Pour the olive oil into a shallow baking dish or pan and add the garlic,  salt, and pepper.
  4. Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally, removing the stems. t2Cut the peppers into strips. Toss the tomatoes and peppers with the oil and seasonings, then lay them cut side down in the dish.
  5. Add the rosemary, parsley, and basil.
    t3
  6. Bake for an hour and a half to two hours, or until the tomatoes are completely softened, wilted, and start to wrinkle. Depending on the tomatoes, they may take longer or shorter to cook.
    t5Remove from the oven, throw into your favorite sauce, put on bread, or eat from the pan.
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