Currently, I’m reading another of Michael Pollan’s books, Cooked, in which he talks about one of my favorite subjects – you guessed it – cooking. At the beginning of one of the chapters, he asks, rhetorically of course, “Is there anyone alive who actually enjoys chopping onions?”
And honestly, if anyone does… it isn’t me. Oh, I’m okay with zoning out and getting a little “Zen” with my cooking, as he puts it – it’s not the drudgery of chopping that gets me. It’s just that my poor eyeballs can’t stand it. And you know, you kind of need eyes to wield a sharp knife, and you need a sharp knife to properly cut an onion. I’m no Samurai. I’d like to keep my fingers.
So the fact that I only had to cut an onion for this recipe once, as in, in half, pleased me. In fact, this recipe really doesn’t require a ton of chopping in general. And, as long as you can be in the house for part of the morning or afternoon, it really doesn’t take a whole lot of effort at all.
What it does do is help you turn all that cheap, seasonal produce into an abundance – nay, a plethora – of flavor. Hey – in my mind, a plethora of flavor sounds fantastic.
I mean, all these tomatoes and zucchinis and bell peppers were just hanging out in a big farmers’ market box, just hoping to be turned into something this amazing. It was the least I could do to oblige. Besides, once it’s done, it’s a sauce of many uses – it can go on almost anything and make it taste about a hundred and twenty four percent better. You can even keep it in a jar in the fridge for a week or so.
The roasting concentrates and elevates the natural flavors in the veggies to an ultra-level. I don’t even know what to call it. Tomatoes become the epitome of tomatoes. The zucchinis taste more like – zucchinis! The snozberries taste like snozberries!
And, bonus… no onion eyes involved.
Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce
4 large, red tomatoes, about 4” in diameter
2 zucchinis, ends removed, and sliced ½” thick
½ yellow or white onion (outer layer removed)
1 red bell pepper, seeds and stem removed, chopped in half
3 cloves garlic (skin removed)
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
3 oz tomato paste (½ a small can)
1 long sprig fresh rosemary (about 2 tsp. chopped)
½ c. dry white wine
Seasoning blend: ½ tsp. each salt, pepper, red pepper flakes + 1 tsp. each: Italian herbs, garlic powder, onion powder
Handful fresh basil, chopped
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cover a large metal baking sheet with aluminum foil and spritz with oil. Arrange the vegetables (whole tomatoes, chopped zucchini, bell pepper halves - skin up, and onion) on the foil. Drizzle olive oil lightly over all of them, and place in the center rack of the oven for 20 minutes, rotate, and allow to bake up to 20 minutes longer.
Remove the pan from the oven, allow to cool slightly, and peel off the skin from tomatoes and red pepper (it should be fairly easy to get most of it off at this point).
In a large pan over medium heat, place all veggies together, smashing them down with a large spatula or potato masher. Add the tomato paste, rosemary, white wine, and seasonings. Stir everything together and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes to an hour.
(Note: I give such a wide range of time because, if you’re in a hurry, this will still taste great with a short simmering time. But, if you have time to spare, the sauce with thicken and intensify the flavors as it marries with the seasonings over the course of an hour.)
In the last 5 minutes of cooking, add the chopped basil. After that time, either use an immersion blender or transfer the sauce to a food processor or blender to puree just until it reaches a semi-smooth consistency. Taste test for seasoning, and adjust if necessary.
Serve hot over whole wheat spaghetti noodles, spaghetti squash (recipe here!), or atop a homemade pizza (recipe here!)