I imagine the prolific tomatoes have something to do with the amount of sunlight, our willingness to tolerate unruly tomato behavior, and the fact that Tim doesn't really like tomatoes. He's not opposed to ketchup or pasta sauce or salsa, just raw tomatoes. As a result, we end up using most of our tomato bounty to make various kinds of sauces. I've probably read a bit too much about Lillian Gilbreth, but I'm very into the idea of finding more efficient ways of doing things, especially when confronted with pounds and pounds of tomatoes.
In this case, the tomatoes, garlic, basil, and most of the hot peppers are from our garden. The onions are from our favorite farmers at the East Nashville farmer's market, some of the hot peppers are from our weekly CSA basket.
All Purpose Roasted Tomato Base
Tomatoes, enough of any variety to fill a roasting pan
Onions, about 3 per roasting pan
Garlic, about 1 head per roasting pan
Pepper, freshly ground
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Slice tomatoes in half pole to pole (removing stem end and other blemishes) and place in the roasting pan, cut side up. Cut onions into quarters or halves for smaller onions and distribute throughout roasting pan. Remove skins and ends from cloves of garlic and scatter through pan. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Add a handful (1 teaspoon or so) of sea salt and add freshly ground pepper to taste. Do not cover pan. Place in pre-heated oven and cook for 45-50 minutes. Remove from oven and blend with hand-held blender to desired degree of smoothness. Make sure to include any juices that form in the pan, this is the tastiest bit of the sauce.
If you want to make pasta sauce:
Use as is or add in thinly sliced fresh basil, fresh oregano, and/or pine nuts.
This week's tomato sauce looked like this, served over some super tasty homemade ricotta gnocchi:
If you want to make fresh salsa:
While tomato sauce is cooking, place any variety of washed hot peppers into a small dish, drizzle with olive oil, and cover the pan with foil. Place in oven with tomatoes and cook for 30-40 minutes. Pull off the stem. Remove seeds if you'd like a milder salsa (although roasting really mellows everything out). Add to tomato sauce and blend. I also like to throw in some freshly chopped onion when I'm using this salsa.
If you want to make pizza sauce:
Depending on the tomato variety used, the sauce may be thick enough to use as pizza sauce as is. If the sauce is not thick enough, place in pot and simmer until it reaches the desired thickness.
I imagine if you were into tomato soup, you could also puree the tomato base really well and end up with some tasty soup. The anti-tomato soup faction is fairly strong at my house, so I haven't tried this. I know a lot of tomato sauces call for you to remove the tomato seeds, but they don't bother me. I've also seen a lot of recipes that tell you to remove the skins from the tomatoes. I used to try to get most of the skins off, but I've found that they either blend up nicely or are easily removed using my stick blender.
All of these variations freeze really well. This year, we planted paste tomatoes, San Marzano variety, which makes a fairly tasty sauce with a perfect amount of liquid. I personally prefer using heirloom varieties of all kinds - I think they produce a more interesting sauce. The San Marzano sauce works really well though and is quite tasty. If we do end up with excess liquid, we simply reduce the sauce a bit on the stovetop and it turns out just fine. It's really important not to toss out the sauce that forms in the roasting pan, as this is the tastiest part of the sauce in my opinion.
ps I know you're all really wondering "why not plant fewer tomatoes? wouldn't that solve the problem of too many tomatoes?" and trust me, we've tried that. If we plant fewer tomato plants, we still get the same number of tomatoes. I call it The First Law of Tomatoes: Conservation of Tomato Production. Regardless of how many seedlings you plant, you always end up with the same number of tomatoes to use.