Roast, then freeze, bountiful tomato harvest

  • By Jan Roberts-Dominguez
  • Wednesday, August 31, 2011 12:01am
  • Life

Roasting fresh summer tomatoes with a bit of olive oil, some fresh herbs and a fistfull of garlic is a brilliant maneuver.

Trust me. The tomatoes come out beautifully bronzed on the outside, with a concentrated, tomatoey flavor oozing from their softened innards.

The flavorful melange is a cross between a sauce and a filling. Chunky yet velvety. I pack each batch into freezer bags and am able to sustain a state of smug gratification for as long as my supply lasts. Usually into April.

There are so many ways to use this special mixture: as a base for a quick pasta sauce and topping over roasted polenta, to omelette and lasagna fillings.

My friend Chris Peterson has been doing the same thing for several years; banking her flavorful cache in the freezer to maintain her summer-quality cooking all year long.

And like me, she roasts her harvest until there is no more to harvest.

So by the end of the season, Chris figures she’s squirreled away several gallons worth of sauce. Or filling. Or soup base. Or whatever you want to call it.

“I use the big square roasting pan that came with the oven,” she says. “I spread a little olive oil on the bottom, cut tomatoes in half — slicer, paste (the best!) and cherries — whatever needs to be used up.

“I toss in a handful of peeled garlic cloves and some herbs (fresh rosemary, basil or cilantro), drizzle more olive oil over them, a little salt and pepper, and roast at 400 to 450 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes.”

She goes more by sight than time, waiting until the tomato skins are turning blackish, “yet the rest is still juicy, and the fragrance has our mouths watering.”

In the Dominguez household, the roasting sometimes takes place out on our deck on my grill, over indirect heat, with the lid on. So even on the hottest days of summer, I can be roasting without heating up my kitchen.

Chris has created yet another option. It’s a little time-consuming, she adds. But to anyone who has pondered whether to leave the tomato skins on or fish them out of the sauce before freezing it, she has a wonderful solution:

“After roasting, I pluck all the skins off (they peel off with ease) and put them in the blender or food processor along with some of the juicier liquid and most of the roasted garlic cloves, then whomp it up and pour it back into the pan with all the other stuff.”

So while tomatoes and all the other savory offerings of summer are here, consider filling your freezer with a substantial supply.

As Chris says, “Most anything that calls for tomato sauce will be boosted into outer space with roasted tomato sauce.”

Note: For more tips on roasting vegetables for the freezer, go to my blog at

I usually puree them into a velvety sauce right after roasting, but you can freeze them in their chunky state and decide what to do with them later in the year.

Roasted summer tomatoes

2 pounds tomatoes (amounts are approximate), peeled if desired (see note), cored and halved, quartered, or cut into 1-inch cubes (to measure 4 cups)

1 large Walla Walla Sweet onion, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

1/2 cup coarsely chopped basil

8-10 cloves of garlic, peeled

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the tomatoes as desired. If using cherry tomatoes, simply remove the stems and halve each one. Place the tomatoes in a large roasting pan, jelly-roll pan, or any baking sheet with sides. Add the onion, basil and garlic. You can crowd the vegetables together, but don’t go beyond a single layer.

Drizzle on a bit of olive oil, and then sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Roast in a preheated 375- to 450-degree oven (the hotter the oven, the shorter the roasting time) until the tomatoes are turning a deep golden brown on their skins. Depending on your oven temperature, this will take anywhere from 20 minutes to about 90 minutes. When done, they will have collapsed and look quite wrinkled.

Alternatively, consider roasting the vegetables over indirect heat on your grill, with the lid on. I have a wood pellet-fed grill (it’s called a Traeger and is built in Mount Angel, Ore.), which provides a wonderful smoke flavor to the vegetables.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven or grill and let the vegetables cool. With a metal spatula or wide, flat-sided wooden spatula, stir and scrape the cooled tomatoes to dissolve all of the cooked-on bits of food.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups smooth sauce, 4 cups chunky sauce.

Options for freezing

The Chris Peterson skinned variation: After roasting, pluck all of the skin off the tomato flesh (it comes off easily). Place it in a blender or food processor along with a healthy glug of the liquid from the roasting pan. Blend on high until the skin is a puree. Stir this mixture back into the vegetables before refrigerating or freezing.

Note on peeling tomatoes: To remove the tomato skins before roasting, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut a shallow X in the bottom of each tomato. Blanch them in the boiling water for about 30 seconds (just until the skin begins to peel away), them remove with a slotted spoon and run under cold water to cool. Peel the skins off the tomatoes, then core and cut into halves, quarters, or 1-inch chunks and proceed with recipe.

To freeze: Ladle the sauce into freezer containers or resealable plastic freezer bags, leaving about 1-inch head space. Let cool completely, then close and freeze.

Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis, Ore., food writer, artist, and author of “Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit,” and four other cookbooks. Readers can contact her by email at, or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at

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