Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

For a taste of summer come winter, put aside summer tomatoes now, by slow-roasting the tomatoes for a long time – yes, a long, long, LONG time, no measly couple of hours. After testing many batches of slow-roasted tomatoes, I finally fixed upon the perfect combination of time and temperature, oil and herbs, a collection of tips and techniques. Slow-Roasted Tomatoes are something really special ... don't let the tomato season pass by without a batch or two or three. Or four.

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

'Low and slow.'

Good cooks know the formula works for summer barbecue and Thanksgiving turkeys. But tomatoes?

Easy-to-find recipes for roasted tomatoes range from 200F to 400F and 45 minutes to eight hours. But two years ago, I became obsessed with discovering the perfect time and temperature for tomatoes. Truth be told, it took 17 batches to fix on 12 hours (yes, hours, yes, a half day) and 200F.

The right tomatoes are important. Only a meaty tomato can withstand a long roast. Visit CJ’s Produce at the Kirkwood Farmers Market for locally grown Cascade and Roma tomatoes.

Herbs are important but dried herbs are preferable. My favorite blend is Italian seasoning and fennel seed.

A touch of oil encourages caramelization. Salt boosts flavor and pepper adds a measure of heat.

But without question, the only requirements are temperature and time. Low and slow.

Once a few pounds of tomatoes are put aside, the real magic is in the cooking. Every single dish I’ve made with slow-roasted tomatoes has been a stand-out. Think tomato soup, spaghetti sauce, lamb stew, eggplant Parmigiana, homemade pizza, fast pasta suppers and rich lasagna.

Think delicious. Think low and slow. Good cooks now know, it is, indeed, the way to go.

SLOW-ROASTED TOMATOES

Summer providence for winter meals
Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Oven time: 10 - 12 hours
Makes about 2 cups
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons mixed dried herbs (Italian seasoning, basil, oregano, sage or thyme)
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seed
  • 4 pounds meaty tomatoes (Cascade or Roma)
  • Unpeeled cloves of garlic, optional
  • Freshly ground pepper

Set oven to 200F. Drizzle a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and seasonings.

Halve the tomatoes lengthwise, leaving the stem socket on one side so after roasting, the skins slip off more easily.

Rub each cut side in the oil and herbs, then arrange cut-side down in a single layer, butted together. Tuck in garlic cloves. Sprinkle tomato tops with salt and pepper.

Roast for 10 to 12 hours. If roasting two trays at once, swap racks after 6 to 8 hours. Let cool. Slip off and discard skins. Use within 2 to 3 days or freeze.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE Per Batch: 367 Cal (30% from Fat); 14g Tot Fat; 2g Sat Fat; 59g Carb; 20g Fiber; 164mg Sodium; 0mg Cholesterol; Weight Watchers 8 points

How to Slow-Roast Tomatoes

Photo 1 Photo 2 Photo 3 Photo 4 Photo 5 Photo 6
Photo 1 - Use a meaty tomato, such as a Cascade or Roma. Figure out how many fit your baking sheet, mine is +/- 4 pounds. To maximize the oven time, I roast two trays at a time.
Photo 2 - Drizzle baking sheet(s) with olive oil and dried herbs. I've tested more oil, it really isn't necessary for the slow-cooking time releases so much flavor. Dried herbs stand up better to the long time in the oven. To my taste, fennel is essential.
Photo 3 - Halve the tomatoes, cutting beside not through the stem socket. This makes it easier, after roasting, to remove the skins.
Photo 4 - After cutting a tomato in half, rub the cut side down in the oil and herbs, then begin to arrange tightly in a single layer.
Photo 5 - Fill the tray. Tuck in unpeeled garlic cloves if you like. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Photo 6 - This photo was taken after only 7 hours. The first time you roast tomatoes, check them every hour or so since oven temperatures (and tomato moisture) do vary. I've never had trouble but know people who've burned their first batches. I usually roast tomatoes overnight, putting them on at supper, pulling them out of the oven before starting work in the morning. The house will smell like a tomato factory!
More - Slip off the skins, this is slightly easier when they're warm. Be sure to work over something to collect the roasted tomato flesh and the juices. I pack each tray's yield into a freezer bag, squeeze out the air and then freeze flat.
Now the fun part - on my food blog for vegetable recipes called A Veggie Venture, see all the many recipes using slow-roasted tomatoes.

Meet the 'Tomato' Man


Craig Sanders from CJ's Produce at the Kirkwood Farmers Market

aka Craig Sanders from CJ's Produce at the Kirkwood Farmers Market in Kirkwood, Missouri, my home town


Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. What are you putting aside for winter? Share a recipe via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. "Like" Kitchen Parade on Facebook!

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Alanna,
The other cool thing is they freeze well so you have have that same wonderful taste in January.
 
For sure, Kevin, I freeze all the slow-roasted tomatoes because, well, for only another month, the fresh ones simply must be enjoyed!
 
Looks delicious. I may have to make this my weekend project.
 
Sound delicious! I really hope by next year I'll have enough space to have a little veggies garden so I can eat things like this!
 
I've already started making these to stockpile in the freezer. My version is slightly different -- I use fresh thyme from my garden. I've learned that my half-sheet pan, or jelly-roll pan, holds exactly five pounds of halved plum tomatoes.
 
Thoroughly enjoyed this column, Alanna. Low and slow, always gives such depth...
 
I can imagine they have that intense taste of sun-dried, but w/out all the oil and salt. So good, so easy. Set the timer and forget about them. Thanks!
 
Aaaa! I wish I'd seen this sooner! I roasted some tomatoes yesterday and I felt totally lost with the recipe I was using. I put the tomatoes face UP. They were still pretty wet after 14 hours. Is this normal?

Glad to know I can freeze them!
 
Hi Katherine ~ Hmm, 14 hours. You've tested your oven temp? But yes, moist is normal, especially if you've used a lot of olive oil for roasting. Remember, these aren't 'dried' tomatoes, like the sun-dried ones we're familiar with, they're roasted.

If they taste good, go for it. But I'd be a little concerned that even with moistness, they might taste a little scorched. You'll still find a way to use them but it won't be as tomato-ey as ones full of real tomato essence.
 
If anything, I didn't have the temp high enough. I had it at 170, the lowest setting for my oven, for the first 10 hours, per my recipe. I upped it to 200 for the last two, and then up again to 220 for about two hours. They're not all scorched. I think I was looking for that dried look, since the recipes was for dried tomatoes.

With yours, do you have to reconstitute them? I'm thinking my tomatoes are somewhere in-bewteen roasted and dried.
 
Ah yes, the temperature, that's the key. And honestly, I'm not sure you had the temp high enough to do anything other than harbor bacteria over many hours. I'd be careful about consumption ...

And no, no reconstituting is required. They're roasted, not dried, and are completely moist and fat, more like sun-dried tomatoes soaked in oil except fatter and deeper-still taste-wise.
 
People set tomatoes out in the sun to dry all the time so I'm not worried about the temp. The recipe (which is from "Homegrown Pure and Simple: Great Healthy Food from Garden to Table") actually said the temp could be as low as 150 degrees, but mine doesn't go that low. I actually tasted a piece at it was delicious! So they're now chopped and frozen in my freezer. I think they'll be good in soups.
 

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna