Here’s a tip: If you’re looking for a secret ingredient to make your summer meals more special, you have to try slow-roasting tomatoes. This technique is so easy and yields such delicious results that I know you’ll add it to your repertoire once you’ve tried it. While you’re puttering around your house this weekend, tuck a pan of tomatoes in the oven, come back a few hours later, and take a look.
Not only does slow-roasting concentrate and caramelize the intense flavor of a beefsteak tomato, but it also gives it a meatier, more robust texture. The roasted tomatoes become versatile ingredients, perfect for tossing into pasta or salads, layering on sandwiches and crostin, or just using as a terrific side dish for grilled or roasted meats. They keep in the refrigerator for a week (or longer, I suppose, if you can manage not to eat them all first), and you can freeze them, too. A bonus is the lovely tomato-infused olive oil left over after roasting; drizzle it over grilled vegetables or on crusty bread, or use it in a vinaigrette.
The only secret to roasting tomatoes is not to undercook them. The technique is simple: cut tomatoes in half, spread them in one layer on a rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and herbs, and coat generously in olive oil. Roast slowly (for about 3 hours) until the tomatoes are a deep, rich brown and very collapsed. You can certainly use this method on less-than-ripe tomatoes—and they will taste better after roasting—but if you start with really meaty, juicy-ripe tomatoes, the end result will be out of this world.
A dozen delicious ways to use roasted tomatoes
- Make a simple crostini by topping a small piece of grilled bread with a roasted tomato half and a little slivered basil. Or make a bruschetta topping by chopping the tomatoes and folding in the basil.
- For antipasto, arrange a small stack of roasted tomatoes with a few good olives, a slice or two of prosciutto, a piece of really good Parmigiano-Reggiano, some greens, and a piece of crusty bread.
- For an easy hors d’oeuvre, top a crock of warmed goat cheese with chopped roasted tomatoes, a few pine nuts, and a drizzle of pesto. Serve with crackers.
- Make a sandwich of aged Cheddar, crisp bacon, roasted tomato halves, and herbed mayonnaise.
- As a warm side dish for grilled lamb, reheat roasted tomato halves with a little crumbled feta on top. Garnish with fresh mint. Drizzle the lamb with the tomato oil.
- Make a summery spinach or arugula salad by adding fresh chopped roasted tomatoes, corn kernels, and grilled red onions. Toss with Lemon-Sherry Vinaigrette. Add sliced grilled chicken or grilled shrimp to make it a main dish.
- Mix up a quick pasta sauce of roasted tomatoes chopped and mixed with their juices. Or make a richly flavored puttanesca sauce by adding capers, olives, and anchovies to the roasted tomato base.
- Make a bed for grilled steak by overlapping roasted tomato halves. Top with arugula.
- Fill omelets, frittatas, and crepes with finely chopped roasted tomatoes and bold cheeses.