I should preface this one with the admittance that all of my ingredients were purchased at a produce market in Southern New Jersey, for under $20. Yeah. The ingredients listed don’t even include other miscellaneous extras and fruit that I bought there too. Sigh. I really need to figure out a Brooklyn-equivalent for getting this much produce for such a wonderful price… suggestions are more than welcome if there are fellow bk people reading this!
Now, more about this recipe. This one takes a little bit of planning and slightly more effort, but is so, so worth it. I started making my own tomato sauce while living in a Le Corbusier-meets-Brutalism apartment in Munich about 3 years ago. My kitchen (i.e., a sink and mini fridge with two hotplates) was essentially a 24-inch wide hallway between the bedroom, and well, the door… so very early on I had to figure out what to do with cooking. I decided I didn’t want to bother with buying a microwave or toaster oven, and made it through an entire year using 6 pieces of flatware, 2 plates, 2 cups, and 2 pots. I don’t know if I could ever do that again, but looking back it was probably good for me… and pays a cheeky homage to all those purist ideas of a minimal lifestyle, right Le Corb?
Anyway, it turns out making tomato sauce from scratch is pretty amenable to the hot plate (and oven-less) set-up, so it became a habit. This is actually relaxing to make too, what with all the beautifully colored vegetables, methodical chopping, and savory smells. It’s also vegan and vegetarian. If it wasn’t so freaking hot outside I would probably make this once a week. Click for the recipe!
12 roma tomatoes, washed and halved w/ seeds removed (I do this with my hands but you can scoop them out with a spoon too.)
6-7 shallots, peeled
2-3 red bell peppers, sliced into 1- or 2-inch strips
1 pint white mushrooms, w/ dirt patted off, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup tomato paste (1 can is fine too)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil (for the wok/skillet)
olive oil spray for the cookie sheets
about 8 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (for covering the tomatoes and the pepper/mushroom mixture each)
black pepper, garlic powder, dried basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, all to taste
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Prep the tomatoes and place them flat side down on an oiled cookie sheet. Pour 3-4 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar over the tomatoes and sprinkle some black pepper. Arrange the shallots in between the tomatoes. Roast for 20 minutes. While the tomatoes are roasting, on a separate oiled cookie sheet place the diced mushrooms and peppers and pour 2-3 tablespoons of balsamic over the vegetables. Roast for 20 minutes. (Note: You could just prep things at the same time, but it was getting so hot I ended up doing it in shifts this way. You could even prep everything the day before you make it for it to be easier.) The tomatoes should have blistered or slightly blackened skins by the time they’re done. Most of the leftover water will be on the cookie sheet, so be careful to keep it level.
When the roasting is done, set the two cookie sheets aside. Preheat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large wok or very large frying pan (I used a wok). Saute the garlic until it browns a little bit, and then add the mushroom/pepper mixture. Saute this for about 5-7 minutes on high heat while adding black pepper, dried basil, oregano, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes. Then mix in the shallots and tomatoes. Smash up the tomatoes with a spatula until they all lose their form and you start to see a sauce forming (the mushrooms and peppers will still be big enough to give it a more rustic look). When the mixture starts simmering, add 1/2 cups tomato paste and stir for about 7-10 minutes on high heat. Then reduce heat, taste test, and spice accordingly. When properly spiced, you can let it simmer for another 10 minutes, or take it off the heat. This makes 48 fl. oz. of tomato sauce. Serve immediately over vegetables or pasta, or store in an airtight container. I chose to freeze mine for future Italian food cravings.