It's February, and I know the lack of a groundhog shadow is supposed to mean there is an early spring on the way, but it still feels quite wintery for most of us. In fact, as I'm writing this, there's snow and 25 mph wind gusts right outside my window. This is usually right about the time I find myself craving fresh, flavorful produce that just isn't in season yet. Fortunately, I found a way to remedy the "lack of flavor" problem with out of season produce when I created a delicious tomato sauce that really delivers.
The first time I created this sauce was out of necessity. It wasn't the necessity of needing freshness, it was because I had ordered a box of Roma tomatoes from Bountiful Baskets, a produce delivery co-op that was wildly popular in the area where we lived at the time. The tomatoes didn't cost much, and I was so excited to order that I didn't notice how many tomatoes I would be receiving. That $12 box of tomatoes? Well it weighed 25 pounds. Fortunately, I had a friend that taught me and several others the art of canning, saving us from tomato-induced insanity, and I'm still canning now, thanks to her fantastic teaching.
I still had several dozen tomatoes left over and that's when I decided to roast them. Roasting really brings out some of the best qualities in ingredients, and the tomatoes in this recipe are no exception. They start out simply dressed with olive oil and seasonings, and end up soft, and almost jam-like with deeper, more complex flavors. It's a great way to get maximum flavor for not a lot of effort, with a very tasty result.
I've made this into a pasta dish, but the roasted tomatoes are absolutely wonderful on toasted bread as bruschetta, or stirred into hummus for a dip. This recipe serves two, making it perfect for a cozy Valentine's Day dinner, but it is easily doubled if you want to serve more. Keep in mind the tomatoes do take some time to roast, so plan ahead. However, it is unattended time and the rest of the prep is very simple. After putting this dish together, all you'd need is a green salad and some of that aforementioned bread, and dinner is in the bag.
6 medium Roma Tomatoes, halved lengthwise
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon dried Thyme
2 teaspoons Sugar
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
4 ounces Spaghetti or other thin pasta
Fresh Parsley, torn for serving
Shaved Parmesan, for serving
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
In an oven safe baking dish, place the tomatoes cut sides facing up. Drizzle with the olive oil, then sprinkle with the salt, thyme, sugar, and black pepper. Place in heated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300 degrees and let roast for 1 to 1.5 hours, or until very soft and fragrant. They should be very easy to mash with a fork when barely touched.
Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Set aside about 2 teaspoons of the oil from the bottom of the baking dish.
Once tomatoes are out of the oven, cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to package directions for al dente pasta. Drain, but reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water.
Return the pasta pot to the stovetop over medium heat. Add the reserved oil and the roasted tomato puree. Let cook until it begins to sizzle slightly, then add the pasta, tossing to combine. Slowly drizzle in the reserved cooking water as you toss to thin the sauce until you reach the desired consistency. The pasta will absorb some of the sauce as you toss it. Season with more salt and pepper to taste, if needed. Serve topped with fresh parsley to brighten the flavors and shaved parmesan for cheesy goodness.
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