After asking around on Facebook, I wanted to know what you my readers were looking for, and this came to mind when a friend was asking about Vegetarian Pasta Sauce for her Veg-Head Daughter, I think this is such a good one because it can go in so many directions. It’s a result of this last summers huge bounty of Tomatoes, Peppers and Onions I grew, and can be used to make great Italian or Mexican food, depending on the herbs, and spices, which are added in the final cooking stage. I’ve always done this on top of the stove, until this year, when for lack of space, and in a rush for time, I just loaded a 13x9x2 inch pan with, Tomatoes. Peppers, Onions, and Garlic, sprinkled olive oil and Morton’s Kosher Salt, on them and stuck it in the oven, while I was canning other stuff on top of the stove. The result was a pan full of vegi’s, roasted to perfection, so I made Marinara Sauce, threw together some Turkey Meatballs, boiled some pasta, made garlic/cheese bread, shaved some romano cheese on top of the main dish, and called it a day.
As I mentioned this base could be used for so many different types of cooking, and I will be using it as a reference for many dishes to come. After the first batch, came many more, which are now in my freezer, ready to become whatever I decide to make. I did this because really good Tomato’s, are hard to find this time of year, places like Whole Foods, will definitely be your best bet. For any gardener’s out there this base freezes very well, and is far superior to opening a can of tomato’s, tomato sauce, puree, etc. The only thing that can come in handy sometimes, depending on what sauce you’re making is tomato paste, which is a great tool for deepening the flavor, adding a richness and sweetness,to sauces such as Bolonese, and they sell it in tubes now which makes it much more user friendly, and tastier.
Preheat oven to 425º, if you have a convection oven use it!!!  If not, no big deal people have been cooking for a long time without them!
Cover 13x9x2″ pan with foil,

Fill with all openings facing up:
8 to 10 med/lg Tomato’s with the top cut out, where the vine meets the fruit,( make sure they are truly ripe, soft to the touch but not mushy)
1 lg white onion peeled & cut into 1/4’s or 1/8’s
1 head of Garlic with about a 1/4″ of the top cut off, exposing the raw garlic
2 sweet or hot pepper’s whole, (this is totally a matter of taste, I like things hot, so I’ll use what I grow which are Hot Banana Peppers, Cow Horn, or Anaheim)
Generously drizzle with Olive oil and sprinkle lightly with Kosher salt
Place in the center of the oven for 1 to 1 1/2  hours, when you remove it the peppers should be turning brown, and quite a bit of water should have accumulated in the pan, and the wells on top of tomato’s. Don’t Touch, as hard as that may be.  Let cool, drain water very carefully, there are several ways to do this, remember the tomato’s are going to be mushy and very delicate, removing everything to a wide bowl with a slotted spoon works well, but be careful to not mix the water back into the fruit, the water needs to go away.

Have ready a Blender or food processor.
Now it’s time to seed and peel, it’s a matter of taste, I leave in about half the Tomato seeds, some people take them all out (good if you have small kids who are picky eaters), it’s up to you. The tomato’s going to fall right out of the skin, discard seeds (if desired) and peels. Do this part over a bowl, it’s messy and fun, now the peppers, peel and seed, if they are hot peppers use gloves and don’t touch your eyes, now squeeze the meat out of all the garlic skins, disgard all peels, seeds and skins, (the onions can be thrown in first, and pulsed a few times to make them more the size of the other ingredients)put all ingredients in the blender and pulse to desired consistency, meaning for Marinara, or Enchilada sauce I make it pretty smooth, if I’m going to make Salsa or Gumbo I leave some chunks. Pour the blender contents into a pot, bring to a boil and reduce to simmer, we are now going to remove some more of the natural water by reduction, this a good time to start thinking about what flavors you want to add, a bay leaf should go in right away, no question, and in my house fresh oregano, and thyme are favorites, with Sweet Basil being added at the very end. And honestly a tablespoon of good old fashioned Dried Italian Seasoning works wonders, make sure you put it in the palm of your hand and rub the herbs as you add them, dried herbs lose there flavor very quickly sitting on the shelf, they should be replaced often and bought in small quantities, to avoid waste.
Once you’ve added your herbs, salt and pepper to taste, and add I tsp sugar to neutralize the acid.
Let simmer, on low, for one hour stirring occasionally.
TA DA!!!! you have Oven Roasted Marinara, delicious plain or with meat added, over pasta, in Lasagna, and a shoe in for Baked Ziti, Stuffed Shells, or Manicotti. If any of these sound good to you let me know, and I’ll post them!
Again and as always,
© Jennifer Green Alger 2009