Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Marinara Sauce

Marinara sauce falls squarely into the DIY category. There's no reason to buy blah sauce from the store when it's so easy to preserve the fresh flavors of summer in your freezer.

Recipe Notes

  • I make a few variations of marinara depending on what's around the kitchen. This roasted version was born late one night when I assessed my fruit/veggies and realized they weren't going to last much longer. My farmers market hoarding results in a weekly state of panic as I try to find recipes for anything that's about to go - see Roasted Eggplant and Red Pepper Dip. Hoarding leads to creative cooking (™ new tagline).
  • In terms of texture, I've struggled over the years with sauces that are a bit "watery" or thin. Not only is this marinara both sweet and savory (my favorite), but the roasting process reduces the moisture resulting in the perfect pasta-coating consistency.
  • Making the marinara a day ahead is recommended as the flavors need to meld overnight.

Tools

An immersion blender is a super useful tool for sauces and soups. It gets the job done and is much easier to than a food processor to clean up.

Thyme at Schaner Farms - Santa Monica Farmers Market

Ingredients

Roasting

  • 5 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, sliced (I start with around 6 pounds give or take and end up with 5 1/2ish. A little over is better than a little under.) Note: I use a mix of Cherokee heirloom and beef tomatoes when they're in season, but often throw a variety of tomatoes into the oven if that's what I have on the counter. Mixing up the tomatoes seems to help with depth of flavor.
  • 3 red bell peppers, cut in half, seeds and ribs removed (about 10 ounces after prepping)
  • 3 small/medium yellow onions, sliced (should yield about 1 heaping cup after roasting)
  • 2 medium heads garlic (should yield about 2 - 4 tbsp after roasting) Note: Roasted garlic can be frozen so I make it in batches.
  • Quality olive oil
  • Kosher or flake-style salt and freshly ground pepper

Herbs and Spices

  • 1/2 cup basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cloves raw garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes Note: This adds some heat to the sauce, but if that's not your speed just leave it out or reduce to 1 tsp.

Instructions

Roasting

  • Move an oven rack to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat to 350. You will need two baking sheets for this recipe.
  • Line baking sheets with aluminum foil and then lay a piece of parchment paper on top of that. Note: The parchment paper is important. Roasted tomatoes are delicate and even with olive oil they stick to foil.
  • Transfer the tomatoes to the baking sheet and arrange in a single layer.
  • Drizzle a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil over the tomatoes. I use my hands to spread the oil around, flipping the tomatoes to get both sides covered. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Arrange the red peppers on one half of the second baking sheet, skin-side down, and then add the onions to the second half. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Slice about 1/4 inch off the end of your garlic (not the root end). It should look like this. Leave the skin on to hold the cloves together, rub the garlic with olive oil to prevent burning, and then seal it up in aluminum foil.
  • Roast for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, rotating the pans from top to bottom about halfway through. I find that everything usually finishes around the same time. Your tomatoes should be wrinkly and dehydrated (but not burned) and the onions should be starting to caramelize.
  • As soon as the peppers come out of the oven wrap them in parchment and place in a sealed Ziplock bag. After about 15 minutes remove the peppers and the skin should peel right off.
  • When the garlic is cool gently press the cloves out of their skin and set aside.

Simmer

  • Food processor option: Toss everything into a food processor, puree until smooth, and then transfer to a sauce pot. Note: Be sure to include any juices/oils.
  • Dutch oven option: If you have an immersion blender (much easier in terms of cleaning up), put everything in a Dutch oven or similar non-reactive pot, then puree. Note: Be sure to include any juices/oils.
  • Add the bay leaf and simmer (covered) on medium-low for about 20 minutes.
  • Remove bay leaf and add salt/pepper to taste.
  • Refrigerate in airtight containers for up to 2 days.

Serving Suggestions

I've used this sauce for all of the following:

  • Pasta + Meatballs
  • Meatball Sandwiches
  • Meat Sauce: Remove some sweet or spicy Italian sausage from the casing, break it up, brown, then add to the sauce and simmer (covered) for about 10 minutes. Serve with pasta.
  • Stuffed Red Bell Peppers
  • Eggplant + Tomato Terrine

Storage

The sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days, or it can be frozen. I've kept marinara in the freezer for a few months without any negative impact on the flavor. When it comes to storing food I use Snapware Glasslock Containers. They're BPA free, dishwasher safe, and are made of Pyrex materials. Very happy with how my set has held up in the microwave and freezer.

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