Spicy Roasted Tomato-Basil Sauce

These tomatoes are so easy-and delicious and don’t require “summer” specimens to be used in this sauce that’s generously laced with garlic, chili flakes and ribbons of fresh basil. They can also be simply torn into pieces and placed on top of crispy fried eggplant slices, dusted with freshly grated parmesan cheese, and then baked- Or how about placing some cut, room temperature burrata on top of the tomatoes after baking with the eggplant- Or this sauce is outrageous on a Sicilian (sheet pan) pizza!! Trust me, I could keep going here…

Ingredients for the roasted tomatoes:

  • 10 to 12 Ripe plum (Roma) tomatoes
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (or Garlic Confit Oil), as needed
  • Dried oregano (optional)
  • Kosher or Sea salt, as needed
  • Whole garlic cloves, peeled or unpeeled, as desired (optional)

Ingredients for the sauce:

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, chopped (not too fine, leave some texture)
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh basil leaves, divided
  • 1 teaspoon hot red chili flakes (or to taste)
  • A good pinch of aromatic, dried oregano (optional)
  • 1 quart whole, roasted and peeled tomatoes, with any surrounding liquid from the jar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the roasted tomatoes: Preheat the oven to 300F (I use a convection mode). Line a shallow baking sheet with nonstick aluminum foil and add the tomatoes to the pan. Rub the tomatoes with extra-virgin olive oil or garlic confit oil so they are glistening. Sprinkle the tomatoes lightly with Kosher salt and crumbled dried oregano, if using. Place in the oven for 1 hour or until tender and the skins have developed some golden pockets. Remove from the oven, allow the tomatoes to cool to room temperature, then peel off their skins. If the core ends of the tomatoes feel much firmer than the rest of the flesh, use the tip of a paring knife to cut it out. Place the roasted tomatoes into a clean, quart-size jar with any accumulated juices or olive oil and either use now or refrigerate for up to 1 week. (If planning to store for up to 2 weeks, pour some additional olive oil into the jar with the tomatoes (and feel free to add some cooked garlic confit, if you’ve got it!). If using the extra oil, and it congeals in the refrigerator, allow the tomatoes to come to room temperature before using.

To make sauce: Heat either a 12-inch, deep-sided skillet (or a 2 ½ to 3-quart saucepan) over medium heat with a shallow layer of extra-virgin olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the garlic, ¼ the basil and the chili flakes and allow things to begin to really sizzle. Add the jar of roasted tomatoes and either use a kitchen scissors to snip them into irregular pieces or, if using a wide skillet, you can drive the blade of a rigid pastry scraper down into the tomatoes, repetitively, until they are chopped. Bring the mixture to a brisk bubble, with the cover ajar, over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until tomatoes and garlic are very tender and the surrounding liquids are slightly reduced and concentrated, 20 to 30 minutes.  Stir in the remaining basil and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Use now or later.

To use this sauce on a Sicilian (sheet) pizza: About 30 minutes before using the sauce on a sheet pizza, pour the sauce into a sieve, that’s positioned over a bowl to catch the juices. This will help keep the pizza dough protected from getting soggy, as will placing an overlapping layer of sliced “deli-style” mozzarella cheese over the dough and under the tomatoes.

Any time I’ve suggested a tool, a piece of equipment, or a culinary term that’s unfamiliar to you, you can go to Learn to Cook for more information.

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