Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta Sauce

Cherry tomatoes are tiny versions of the wonderful, ripe tomatoes which I love so much in the summertime. There are many varieties of cherry tomatoes and they all grow prolifically in Louisiana gardens. This bowl of assorted minature tomatoes was grown at the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden on their research farm. The tomatoes were “on sale.” Some were “research” tomatoes — all were difference sizes, shapes and colors. “Take as many as you want,” the kind lady said. That was music to my ears. I came home with over three pounds of these small tomatoes. This was more than I could use in salads. I did not want to let the tomatoes go to waste and decided to experiement making a pasta sauce with most of them. How did the sauce turn out? Quite unique, very tasty.

Although I always have good intentions, sometimes I overdo things and purchase more produce than I can actually use. Cherry tomatoes, when purchased in grocery stores, can be quite expensive. This was a bargain. How could I pass up bringing these juicy little tomatoes home. Although minature cherry and patio tomatoes have a long shelf life, these were getting close to their prime. I got busy the next day and made “Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta Sauce.”

Recipe

Since I was making a pasta sauce and not tomato juice, I wanted a thick, flavorful concoction. I figured that it would be impossible to peel all these tomatoes and remove the seeds. My game plan was to roast the tomatoes in olive oil, then slowly cook them on the stove with all kinds of Italian-type seasonings, garlic and onions. Then I pureed the sauce in my food processor — skin, seeds, everything — to make a thick, flavorful sauce.

Above are the ingredients. My tomato purchase of three pounds of cherry tomatoes yielded eight cups of halved tomatoes. I love onions and garlic and added alot to this sauce. Red wine vinegar gave a little acidity and I added sugar — just because I always add sugar to homemade pasta sauce — and it helps balance the tartness. The herbs in the recipe are oregano, thyme, celery seed and dried or fresh basil. Basically, all the Italian herbs that I could think of. And, I added salt and a pinch of black pepper.

Olive Oil – Surprise Ingredient

I added olive oil to the cherry tomatoes and roasted them in the oven. The olive oil turned out to be the “surprise” ingredient in this recipe. It added a wonderful, unique flavor to the sauce. Don’t skip the olive oil.

To make the recipe, I cut off the stems of the cherry tomatoes and cut them into halves. (Cutting up the tomatoes didn’t take as long as I expected.) Then I roasted the tomatoes in the olive oil. Here are the tomatoes before and after roasting in the oven.

The rest of the recipe is so simple. Sauté the onions and garlic in a large pot and then add in the roasted tomatoes and juices along with all the other ingredients — red wine vinegar, sugar and seasonings. Stimmer on the stove for 45 minutes. Then purée the sauce in a food processor until everything is finely blended (or you could use an immersion blender).

Here’s the finished sauce. This cooked down to three cups of thick pasta sauce. That is actually alot of sauce since you use need only about 1/3 – 1/2 cup to coat each person’s pasta. Enough for six to eight servings. Perhaps I’ll freeze some of the sauce. No, I think we will probably eat all of it.

How did my experiment turn out? I was pleasantly surprised with the flavor — it was wonderful. The sauce had a great tomato ambience. It was well-balanced, not too acidic and not too tart. The consistency was like a thick, thick tomato sauce. It was quite different in flavor and texture from pasta sauce made usng canned tomatoes — hard to describe how — you will have to try it yourself. The olive oil also contributed to the flavor of the roasted tomatoes — I wouldn’t omit or change the type of oil in the recipe.

The “Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta Sauce,” however, did have a tiny bit of crunch — I guess from the seeds. My taste tester husband didn’t mind the crunch. He loved the pasta sauce. Just don’t let a crunchy bite of sauce surprise you.

I served the sauce with penne pasta and garnished the plate with fresh basil and fresh tomatoes. Add French bread and this is an entire “lite” summer meal. And it is vegetarian, low-fat. The pasta sauce fits into the Mediterranean Diet, which is a heart healthy meal plan based on how folks in that region of the world traditionally ate. (I had to mention that fact.)

If I ever have a large surplus of cherry and other minature tomatoes again in the future, I know what I’ll be cooking — “Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta Sauce!”

My cherry tomato “experiment” and recipe turned out great. Thanks, LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden and research center farm sharing your tomato crop. Enjoy the recipe.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta Sauce

  • Servings: 3 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds assorted cherry and other minature tomatoes, reserve several for garnish; (This is 8 cups of tomatoes when cut into halves)
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 large onion (about 2 cups chopped)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil or a small bunch of torn fresh basil
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper, may increase to 1/4 tsp if desired
  • cooked penne pasta, or pasta of choice
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, if desired
  • fresh basil, garnish, if desired

Method and Steps:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Cut stems off cherry and minature tomatoes and cut them in half lengthwise. Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Toss the tomato halves in 2 Tbsp olive oil and transfer to the baking sheet in a single layer. This is easiest if you toss the tomatoes in the olive oil in two batches.
  4. Roast for 30 minutes in the 400 degree oven. Remove from oven and cool slightly.
  5. Meanwhile, add remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil to a large pot and heat to medium heat. Add chopped onion, stir. Then lower heat and cook for about 10 minutes until translucent. Stir frequently. Do not let the onion burn.
  6. Add garlic and cook for one additional minute.
  7. Add the roasted tomatoes, including all the juices, to the pot (including skins and seeds).
  8. Add the remaining ingredients to the pot — red wine vinegar, sugar, salt, oregano, thyme, basil, celery seed and black pepper.
  9. Bring to a boil. Then turn the heat on the stove to low so the tomato juice mixture just simmers. Cover the pot (except of a crack) and cook, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. Don’t let it burn — add a tablespoon of water if needed.
  10. Remove from stove. Cool slightly until the sauce can be handled. Use a food processor or immersion blender to puree finely.
  11. Serve pasta sauce hot with cooked penne pasta or other pasta of choice.
  12. Pass grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.
  13. Garnish with reserved tomatoes and fresh basil, if desired.
  14. Refrigerate or freeze remaining pasta sauce.

2 thoughts on “Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta Sauce

  1. I could dive head first into that sheet pan of roasted baby tomatoes! You made me laugh with your confession about buying too many fresh veggies because I do exactly the same thing. I get so excited and imagine myself whipping up tons of delicious dishes, and then I get them home and say, “now what?” haha

    Your sauce sounds great, and I would 100% use it on a pizza. Good job!

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