Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Roasted (green) tomato sauce

Be honest. How many tomatoes do you gardeners wind up with every year that look just like this?

Sure, some of them ripen just fine sitting on the kitchen counter or inside a paper bag. But a lot of them don't, and so they wind up not on a plate but in the compost pile.

I have an intimate knowledge of this topic, believe me. Every year I shepherd two to three dozen tomato plants through the short, confounding Maine summer. And every year I can count on one thing: that I will harvest almost as many tomatoes that look like this as any other.

There's a reason for this, of course. It's too damned cold up here. A proper tomato season is warm and long, and warm and long is something that Maine summers do not do so well. Hell, it's been in the 50s overnight here for a couple weeks already.

Of course, there was also that "weather event" a little more than a week ago. One of the most important things that I did to prepare for Hurricane Irene was not boarding up the windows or tying down the lawn ornaments. It was heading over to my garden with lots of heavy canvas bags so that I could harvest the many as-yet-unripe tomatoes that were at risk of being damaged by the storm. Between Irene and the oncoming change of season I think I wound up with thirty pounds of unripe tomatoes last week.

Lucky for me, I have a friend named Joe, whose mission in life is to spread useful knowledge to anybody who will listen to him. Largely this knowledge centers around world travel, as that is Joe's specialty, but my friend is versed in topics far afield as well.

Joe knows tomatoes, for instance. And he knew what to do with the pounds and pounds of unripe tomatoes that I was saddled with. (I don't do fried green tomatoes, okay, so save the suggestion for somebody else.)

I would never in a million years have guessed it, but Joe told me to make a sauce.

Yes, a sauce. With green tomatoes.

Not only did he tell me what to do, he provided me with a recipe, one provided to him by his lovely wife Joel. It is a good recipe. I know this because I tried it. Twice. Joe wanted me to pass along Joel's recipe to all of you, which I am very happy to do.

I am happy because the recipe allows you to take tomatoes that look like this...

...and turn them into a rich-tasting, very satisfying, all-purpose tomato sauce that looks like this.

Late-season tomato picking here in Maine will never again be the same. 

It will be a lot better.

Joel Ann Rea's Roasted Tomato Sauce

4 to 8 pounds of fresh tomatoes, cored and quartered or loosely chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 to 4 garlic cloves, peeled and split (Joel uses 5 to 7, but she and Joe love garlic)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, or enough to coat ingredients
Salt and pepper to taste
Red pepper flakes to taste
10 to 12 basil leaves, chopped (reserve to add after cooking)

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees F.
In heavy Dutch oven, place tomatoes, onion and garlic. Add olive oil and stir. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste.
Place in oven and roast for 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours (check and stir when you begin to smell the sauce, then keep roasting until you like the look and feel). 
When sauce reaches desired consistency, remove from oven. Lightly mash tomato mixture with heavy spoon or potato masher, then add basil and stir.
Serve over pasta, to top fish or chicken, or as side dish. Sauce flavor deepens deliciously over 1 to 3 days while refrigerated. Can also be frozen.

Note from Joel: This works well with any variety of tomato and is great with a mixture of types, from fully ripe to green off the vine. Cherry, midget, pear and grape varieties also work well, just add whole.
Note from Meatball: I used a fair number of green tomatoes and found it necessary to add a little sugar to bring things into balance.


Velva said...

This is a beautiful sauce. Roasting tomatoes (ripe or unripe) brings out that natural sugars which make for a fab sauce. Thanks for the reminder, that I need not waste my green tomatoes...I need to put them in the sauce too.


Fred said...

Sounds to me that this is just the ticket for my first keeper striper of the upcoming fall fishing season. Any guess how this sauce would marry with stronger, oilier bluefish?

Mister Meatball said...

Fred: Funny you should mention that, because all involved in this sauce-making event said the same thing: that it could be a great accompaniment to many different dishes. It ain't your traditional-tasting red sauce; it's got bite and quite a bit of depth.

As for the blue, far as I'm concerned wet cardboard would go good with my (favorite?) fish. So I'd say give it a shot. If you don't like the sauce, well, you know where my friend lives!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

This almost looks like cream is added to the sauce. I have very few tomatoes left - green or otherwise, but I usually do something my mom and later my husband used to do with green tomatoes - pressing them in a crock with salt and fennel seeds, then jarring them with olive oil - a Calabrese recipe - on my blog as southern jarred green tomatoes

Mister Meatball said...

Linda: No cream, no. But on one batch I did add some butter.

Claudia said...

40's? Try 40's! I have more green than red and the chipmunks get the red. I am definitely doing this - starting tomorrow. No peeling? Really?

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Thanks to you and Joe and Joel for this recipe! My tomatoes were a failure this year so I am not left with many green ones to try this, but I'm glad to know that green tomatoes can make a good sauce. I never would have tried it.

Mister Meatball said...

Claudia: Peel if you wanna, sure. I peeled some, but most I didn't.



Vibey @ Yumbo McGillicutty said...

New to your blog and loving it. The sauce looks awesome, but when I have completely green tomatoes with not even a hint of pink, like come in the picture, I make my ma's green tomato antipasto. They are cured in salt, lightly pickled, then layered in jars with lots of garlic and herbs and finally potted up in olive oil. Which sounds more complicated than it is, but even if a tad complicated, man! It makes takes winter antipasti and sandwiches into another realm.

Unknown said...

We are giving this a shot with the 5 gal of green tomatoes we grew this year. Sound like our weather in WA (aside from hurricanes!) is like yours, I got 5 reds this year! So, we are loaded up with garlic and onion and ready to roll.

Mister Meatball said...

Great! I made 4 batches and all were good, though with the greener ones I did find myself having to add varying amounts of sugar to balance. Also, the longer you cook the better, especially if you like the sauce thick.

Let me know how it turns out.

Email is:

Luella K. said...

Thanks so much for the idea!! We had our first frost last night so we went out and harvested everything we could from our 50 tomato plants. Needless to say, I can't see my 6 ft dining room table anymore under the many layers of green tomatoes. I knew I'd only be able to stand 1-2 meals of "fried green tomatoes" so I came looking for alternatives. Guess I know what's on the menu for tomorrow. Thanks!!

Mister Meatball said...

Good luck. Let me know how it turns out.

Jeni said...

I just made this tonight with the following variations. The ripe, red tomatoes I reduced on the stovetop with some onion and then used an immersion blender on the whole thing. The green tomatoes I roasted in the oven at 400 with some onion, garlic, orange and yellow bell peppers and some celery (and seasonings). After adding everything back together on the stove, I let it simmer for a few minutes and then left it to cool. We will be enjoying it tomorrow night for dinner! I just had a taste and had to let you know how pleased I am. It's sweet, not tart like I was expecting, a beautiful colour and consistency, and just a hint of spice from the chili flakes. Can't wait for dinner! Thanks so much for sharing!

Mister Meatball said...

Very glad to hear, Jeni. And thanks for checking in.

Unknown said...

Yummy looking! Have you ever tried to can this? I've got 9 plants of green tomatos I'm trying to save with tarps through our 4 night freeze, but I'm not sure if they're gonna make it, so this would be perfect if it would can!

Mister Meatball said...

I don't can it, but do freeze it for the long winter, yeah.

Unknown said...

Thanks Dude.
I had a quantity of almost ripe Tomatoes on the plant and am heading off for a couple of weeks.
Rather than let the birds and insects get them while I was away I have followed your recipe. Wow I got 1.8 Kg of fruit off 4 plants and there is still plenty more to come (when I get back).

iamgab said...

Susan, I'm going to can this tomorrow, using a water bath, and adding a tbsp of lemon juice to each pint (how Ball does their water bath canned tomato sauce). I'll let you know how it comes out.

Unknown said...

I freeze all the tomatoes first, it cuts down on the processing and baking time. I bake at 375°F for 35 min flip over the Tomatoes and put them in for 10-20 min. Great Recipe Thanks

Melba toast said...

This is really good! Had a combo of last of the season green and red tomatoes. I did have to add a good bit of sugar to counteract the acidity and extra salt, but it is great! Thanks so much for this - it will be a yearly treat!

Stephanie said...

Canning is not recommended with oil in the recipe, as it can go rancid. Freezing is fine.

Mister Meatball said...

All I ever do is freeze.

Orangemoon2c said...

Thank you Mister Meatball, I will be making this today with the last of my harvest. Should have plenty to freeze for the winter too :) Thx,

Anonymous said...

Awesome, I have done this with ripe tomatoes often. Never thought of using green. I am presently roasting a combo of red and green. Only thing I do different is a splash of red wine (but that goes with everything). Can't wait to try it tonight.

Anonymous said...

I'm somewhat new to gardening (had a balcony garden of cherry tomatoes, herbs, lettuces, green beans, parisian carrots etc) Recently moved to North of Qubec City on land with an actual garden plot. (Maine sounds like a tropical paradise to me) My roma tomatoes crop was planted too late, and I was left with a lot of unripe tomatoes. Most were rippen inside. (Yes, it's a thing here. There's books dedicated to the this)
Il'll be making your sauce with the rest. Thanks for the recipe. Know that I understand your plight :p

Unknown said...

I used your ideas and roasted up two seperate batches. One green and one red, both a mix of beefsteak and roma's. Wonderful!! No need to add sugar to green batch. Roasted and mashed garlic seperate and added near end. This has opened a whole new area of ideas to play with. Thank you so much!