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Smoked Tomato Sauce

Top photo: Ben Fink

Yield: Yields about 2 cups.

The character of this sauce depends on the contrast of sweet and smoky flavors. For sweetness, use only the ripest summer (beefsteak) tomatoes. For smokiness, smoke the tomatoes in an outdoor grill or a smoker if you have one. The tomatoes need to be hot-smoked so that they not only pick up smoky flavor but so that their juices caramelize slightly, too. When I demonstrate this sauce to cooking classes, I rig up an indoor smoker using an old cast-iron Dutch oven or other beat-up pot. I put a cup of wood chips on aluminum foil and put them directly on the bottom of the pot. I put the tomatoes in a pie pan (elevated by a ramekin) over the chips, cover the pot, and set it over medium-low heat. But this method can fill your kitchen with a strong smoky smell, so the recipe here describes an easy way to smoke them on an outdoor grill. This versatile sauce freezes well and is worth making in larger batches for future use.


  • 2 lb. ripe tomatoes, cored
  • 4 large cloves garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. chipotle chile in adobo (or other hot sauce), or to taste
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened
  • A few drops of balsamic vinegar
  • Sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Nutritional Information

  • Nutritional Sample Size per 1/4 cup
  • Calories (kcal) : 50
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 30
  • Fat (g): 3.5
  • Saturated Fat (g): 2
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 0.5
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 1
  • Cholesterol (mg): 10
  • Sodium (mg): 150
  • Carbohydrates (g): 6
  • Fiber (g): 1
  • Protein (g): 1


  • Light a charcoal grill, using enough coals to make a hot fire on one side of the kettle. Fill a container with 2 cups of wood chips (use heavy-duty foil to make an open package, or use a small cast-iron pan or steel chip box). Fit the cored tomatoes snugly in a disposable aluminum cake pan. Tuck a garlic clove into each tomato where the core came out. When the fire is ready, put the container of wood chips into the grill, next to the hot coals. Put the pan of tomatoes on the grill grate, across from but not directly over the hot coals. Cover, leaving the air vents open to keep the heat going. You should see smoke coming from the wood chips. Check on the fire every 15 minutes, adding more charcoal as needed to keep a hot fire going and more wood chips if needed. Rotate the pan of tomatoes occasionally so that different sides are closest to the heat. Smoke the tomatoes until they’re very soft, their skins are darkened, and they’ve released their juices, 45 to 75 minutes. Remove the pan from the grill and let the tomatoes cool slightly.

    For a full-flavored sauce, smoke the tomatoes until they’re shriveled and beginning to char. Photo: Susie Middleton.

  • Carefully transfer the tomatoes, garlic, and all the juices in the pan into a blender and process until smooth. Add the chipotle chile to taste. Strain through a medium or coarse sieve, pressing down to force most of the solids through. When ready to serve, bring the sauce to a simmer in a small saucepan. Whisk in the butter and season the sauce to taste with a few drops of balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper. Keep warm.


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