I don’t mean to mislead you into thinking this is a “Sicola family recipe” — it’s not. In fact, it’s my take on a recipe a friend shared with Loren over Facebook a few weeks back. I loved the idea of roasting tomatoes in the oven instead of making a stove top sauce like I usually do, so I took the nuts and bolts of that recipe and tweaked it to fit my fancy. I’ve never been great at following recipes to a T anyway; in the end, it always becomes my own concoction. This roasted tomato sauce is no exception.
What makes it Sicola-Style?
1) It’s easy; 2) it’s basically measuring-cup-free; 3) it’s flexible (if you don’t like something in it, just trade it for something that suits you!); 4) it’s nutrient-dense (anchovies=omega 3, tomato peels= extra lycopene); 5) it’s chalk-full of rich, sweet flavor — just like this blog — and last but not least, 6) you don’t have to peel the tomatoes! Sweet relief + extra phytonutrients! What could go wrong? I’m starting the tradition right now, and for years to come generations of Sicolas will make this sauce and sing its praises! I know you will too when you try it at home. Tonight we enjoyed it with zucchini noodles, Sicilian sausage, and fresh basil. A healthy twist on my pasta-loving Sicilian family roots!
What Kind of Tomatoes to Use?
I used giant red heirlooms and cherry tomatoes from my backyard tomato jungle, but I’ve seen similar recipes using Romas or San Marzanos. At the end of the day, if you start with a good tomato, your sauce will be good. Don’t use gross pink flavorless conventional beefsteaks and you won’t get gross watery flavorless sauce. It’s that simple. In my book, you start with good organic ingredients and you’ll get good results. Don’t skimp on quality and your taste buds and body will thank you. If you need help picking your tomatoes, here are a few tips:
- The deeper the red color (both inside and out), the better. If you’re having doubts, get a produce employee to cut one open for you before you buy.
- You want only a little give when you gently squeeze the fruit, but some give is important. If a tomato is too firm, it’s probably not quite ripe, which means it was super green when it was picked and probably tastes like nothing (another reason to ask to peek inside one!)
- You want a tomato you like — try a few varieties if you’re not sure what you like best. Certainly the flavor will change and be enhanced as you cook and add seasonings, but if you don’t like the raw materials, you’re less likely to like the finished product.
- If you can get your tomatoes from a local farmers’ market, you’re almost guaranteeing that they were sun-ripened and recently picked, which means rich, deep flavor. Opt for the farmers’ market if you can!
Kitchen Hack: Tomatoes lose their flavor and nutritional value rapidly when refrigerated. Buy your tomatoes the same week you plan to use them and store them on your counter, not in the fridge. You’ll get more flavor and more lycopene, an antioxidant important for eye health and prevalent in tomatoes. In fact, the lycopene increases when you cook and is more bioavailable when fat is added, so this sauce does the trick — cooked in olive oil to guarantee a healthy dose of lycopene in every serving!
Let’s Get Started!
Your Shopping list*:
- 3 lbs fresh organic tomatoes
- Organic olive oil
- 1 can black olives, coarsely chopped (a Sicola family favorite!)
- 1 small jar capers
- 1 small jar anchovies fillets in olive oil
- fresh oregano (or your favorite fresh herbs — other options are rosemary, marjoram, thyme, or some combo)
- cracked red pepper
- REAL salt
*I’m giving you a shopping list instead of an ingredients list because you will not use the whole can of olives or jars of capers and sardines. My leftover olives are long gone (in my belly) but the capers and sardines will store in the fridge for a very long time.
- 2 large cookie sheets
- Jars for freezing/storing (leave about 1.5 inches at the top of each jar you plan to freeze to avoid sadness and broken glass disaster in your freezer)
- Preheat the oven to 400 while you prep your cookie sheets and ‘maters
- Coat the cookie sheets with a thin layer of olive oil
- Cut the tomatoes in half if small, into quarters if large, and line the cookie sheets
- Generously drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt over tomatoes
- Roast at 400F for about 25 minutes, then reduce the heat to 225F and cook for another hour
- Remove from the oven and evenly distribute about 1/2 the can of olives, a couple spoonfuls of capers, and about 10 chopped anchovies over the two sheets of tomatoes
- Add about 5 sprigs of fresh oregano — simply strip the leaves from the stems, no need to chop
- Sprinkle cracked red pepper to your desired spice level (start small, you can always add more at the end!)
- Replace sheets in the oven and cook another hour or so
- Remove from the oven and add all contents to blender
- Add about 5 more sprigs of oregano
- Pulse lightly for a thick, chunky sauce or puree for a smoother texture
- Store in jars in the refrigerator for up to one week. Freeze what you don’t eat to save for a rainy day!