Rustic Roasted Tomato Sauce

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I recently went back to horseback riding, after an absence of several months. I remembered an important lesson of horseback riding: keep it simple and don’t work too hard.

Horses are smart dumb animals. Smart enough to have an opinion on what they are asked to do, dumb enough to do it even if they don’t want to, because if horses are anything other than smart and dumb, it is lazy.

This is where horses are smarter than your average human. They do the work they are asked to do, but will do it with the minimal amount of effort required.

Getting a horse to turn can be as simple as light pressure from a leg against their side. Push from the opposite side they are to move away from. Push lightly. Watch some riders, they are all hard pulls at the rein, big kicks to an increasingly annoyed horse, from an increasingly frustrated rider. An annoyed horse doesn’t listen. A frustrated rider becomes a tired and angry rider.

Watch a horse jump a barrier, they will barely clear over it, even if they are capable of jumping much higher. An 18″ jump requires 18″ of effort. Kicking harder, pulling at the reins harder, none of this will get more than the minimal amount of effort to get that jump cleared.

How does any of this relate to cooking? I don’t know how many times I’ve seen people invest too much effort into food. Their thought is, the more ingredients, the more textures, colors, contrasting flavors, the more whatever going into the food, the better it will be. Even something as simple as tomato sauce gets complicated. Peel and seed tomatoes. Add brown sugar to cut through the bitterness. No, add a shot of espresso. Too much effort, for something that can be so much simpler.

This very simple sauce is taking advantage of ripe ‘second grade’ tomatoes, which have all the taste at half the cost when compared to their prettier non-ugly tomato cousins.

Slow roasted tomato sauce, made from second grade tomatoes.
Slow roasted tomato sauce, made from second grade tomatoes.

There are no herbs used in this sauce, an intentional omission. It is always easier to add flavor later on than to remove it. Cooking the sauce at a low temperature over a long period of time allows the flavor of the tomatoes to ripen, without being influenced by herbs. The flavor is slightly sweet and caramelized, low in acid, closer to that sun-dried tomatoes, without the sharp tartness.

Rustic Tomato Sauce

  • Difficulty: easy
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  • Ripe tomatoes
  • Garlic, minced
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Cu the tomatoes into 1″ dice. Place in a single layer in a roasting pan deep enough to hold them and any liquid they may release. Add minced garlic, extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Toss to combine.

Roast at 325°F for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally, or until the tomatoes are broken down completely.

Once finished, the sauce can be run through a food mill to remove seeds if desired.

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