One of the things that I must always have at hand when I set out to cook, are tomatoes. There is a very high chance that there are tomatoes in pretty much everything I make, unless it’s a dessert. (But that’s only until I figure out a way to incorporate tomatoes in a dessert! Kidding. Maybe not…). Any salad I make, is incomplete without tomatoes, whether they be cubed, or halved; raw or grilled; crushed or roasted. Tomatoes are a must! How could anyone possibly say no to those lush plump chunks of juice dying to burst out of the taut vermillion skin?
I hate to admit it, but growing up, I was not a fan of tomatoes. Now as an adult who likes to cook, I cannot for the love of God remember why. My hands automatically and quite involuntary reach for the pile of tomatoes whenever I step into my kitchen with the intent of cooking, even before I have decided what is it I want to cook today. (Which, if you know me, you will know, is that it’s something I never have pre-decided). Although I do think about what I am going to eat every single waking moment, I change my decision multiple times, and then decide on one, but then end up cooking something completely different.
Before I go off into this tangent forever, let me come back to the subject of tomatoes. What I am sharing with you today is one of my absolute favorite things to make with tomatoes. It’s my basic tomato sauce – but to call it basic would be such an atrocity to such a versatile, rich, and delightful a concoction! I use it for everything! Be it pasta marinara, be it pizza, be it a dip for my fries. This sauce goes with everything. Originally I had discovered it while researching recipes for shakshouka, and believe me it makes a heavenly base for shakshouka, but it’s also amazing with everything else.
The secret to this sauce tasting positively seductive is the roasting of the tomatoes. I like to spread them evenly on my griddle and let them roast over a medium low heat. The juices begin to evaporate a little, the skin dries, but does not shrivel so much, the flavors intensify and the aroma is simply breathtaking!
Okay, I’ll stop talking now. Here’s your one size fits all tomato sauce:
- 5 medium or 4 large tomatoes
- 3-4 cloves of garlic
- 2 large or 3 medium onions
- Olive oil
- Dried or Fresh basil (You can substitute with oregano, or parsely, or any herb of your choice)
- Red chilies (only if you want that heat)
- Heat your griddle (or oven). Dice the onions and tomatoes.
- In a bowl, toss the onions, tomatoes, and the cloves of garlic, and season them with salt and pepper. If you are adding red peppers, now would be the time.
- Drizzle in the olive oil, and coat the veggies with it. Don’t be afraid to use your hands!
- Let the vegetables roast for about 15 minutes, where the juices have dried a little, the tomatoes are quite cooked, but the skin is not completely shriveled or browned.
- After they have roasted, let them cool for a few minutes. This is something I never have patience for. When they have cooled a little, transfer them to your food processor, or blender. Add the herb and process to your preferred consistency. I prefer mine smooth, but I don’t mind tiny chunks of tomato and onion either.
- Give it a taste, add more salt or herb if necessary.
- Use it for anything you want!
Pro tip 1: If you have red bell peppers, dice them and roast them too along with the tomatoes. Bell peppers are lovely, and add to the sweetness of the sauce.
Pro tip 2: When you have blended a sauce, give it a taste. If it feels too tart, add in a few drops of honey or a sprinkle of sugar, and take it for one more round in your blender. It will balance out the tartness.