These slow roasted tomatoes and slow cooked until deliciously sweet, meaty and jammy. They're perfect for spooning out onto a nice slice of bread as part of an antipasto spread or appetizer course for either breakfast, lunch or dinner.
My mother in law has been making these tomatoes for years and they've developed a reputation amongst our extended family and friends. Whenever they pop up at an event, everyone fawns over them and the compliments are abundant. I can honestly say everyone who's tried them sings their praises to this day.
What makes these tomatoes special is that they are very different from the preserved tomatoes you can buy at the supermarket. The closest analogue is probably sundried tomatoes, which I personally have found often have a bit of an acrid taste and a chewy, tacky texture.
My MILs slow roasted tomatoes are superbly sweet with a very pronounced tomato flavor and a luscious meaty jammy texture that has a bit of bite but also melts in your mouth.
These are truly a world class delicacy and I tell my MIL all the time that she could easily bottle and sell them if she were ever so inclined.
Until that day comes, the next best thing for me was to learn how to replicate her recipe and share the process so others can also enjoy these delicious tomatoes.
As is the case with many good recipes passed down by family, this one was transmitted to me not as a precise set of ingredients and directions, but more as a method and general quantities, the precise calibration of which I had to work out on my own through some testing and experimentation.
The magic with these tomatoes is that they're drained and roasted very slowly, which reduces their water content and allows caramelization to happen. I'm a big fan of caramelization and have also shared recipes on caramelized cabbage, caramelized leeks, and caramelized leek pasta (so good!).
I've set out below everything I learned from my MIL and my own process so you can make your own batch at home.
Ingredients for Slow Roasted Tomatoes
Did you know that there are over 10,000 types of tomatoes? I'll never forget the first time I visited the Boqueria market in Barcelona and came across a stand specializing in tomatoes. I had never seen so many varieties in one spot. I was almost speechless and it was probably only about 40 varieties.
Tomatoes have many differentiating factors like size, shape, sweetness and water content. The best tomatoes for roasting are tomatoes with thick walls, a meaty texture and very low water content.
Plum tomatoes, the most common variety being the roma tomato, are the ideal tomato for making tomato confit. They are full of flavour, meaty, dry, and easy to drain of excess liquid.
Other varieties of plum tomatoes include San Marzano and Datterini (little date) varieties.
The thick-walled, oblong plum tomato is synonymous with Italy. Known in supermarkets primarily as Roma tomatoes, these big-sweet, big-acid tomatoes are known for their chewy flesh and low water content.A guide to tomatoes and the best use for each type The Seattle Times
Oil, garlic and herbs
Oil: Olive oil is usually the go-to for this recipe but you can use any other mild tasting oil like canola or sunflower.
Salt: Salt is very important not only for flavour but also to help the tomatoes release water and reduce into a meatier texture.
Garlic: Fresh garlic diced very finely brings a lot of flavor to the recipe. I've found that dicing the garlic very finely creates a nicer texture than using a garlic press. Ultimately either method will work. You could also whizz the garlic up with the oil and other seasonings in a food processor or blender.
Fresh herbs: Good options include oregano, basil, and thyme. Fresh herbs can be substituted for dry and vice versa.
Dry herbs: Good options again include oregano, basil, and thyme. Dry herbs can be substituted for fresh and vice versa.
Spices: This recipe doesn't include any dry spices but you can add spices as you wish and to your taste. A teaspoon of chili flakes or dried fennel seed would be a very nice addition.
Instructions for making slow roasted tomatoes
The prep work for these tomatoes takes some time. In order to get maximum flavour development, the liquid in the tomatoes has to be removed as much as possible - just like one would pat dry meat to get a beautifully browned roast or pat dry potatoes for crispy fries.
These are the steps to make roasted tomatoes:
- Blanche the tomatoes to remove the skin;
- Cut the tomatoes in half and remove juicy membranes and seeds from the insides;
- Sprinkle the insides of the tomatoes with half a teaspoon or so of salt;
- Lay the tomatoes out (cut side facing down) on paper towel or kitchen towel and leave them to drain for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours;
- In the meantime, mix the oil with the finely diced garlic, fresh herbs and dry herbs;
- Once the tomatoes are drained, lay them out on a parchment lined baking sheet cut side facing up;
- Spoon the oil and garlic mixture evenly into each tomato half;
- Sprinkle the remaining salt and any dry herbs you're using on the tomatoes;
- Roast at a very low temperature for 4 to 6 hours.
Step 1: Blanche the tomatoes
First the tomatoes need to be blanched and peeled. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Score the tomatoes (cut one or two perpendicular lines across the stem side), and add them to the boiling water for about 30 seconds.
The tomatoes after blanching.
Peeling the tomatoes.
You will notice the peels start to contract and pull away from the skin.
Remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and allow them to cool so you can handle them and remove the peels.
You should be able to just pinch the peels off of each tomato.
Step 2, 3 and 4: Cut and drain the tomatoes
After the tomatoes are peeled, cut each one lengthwise into halves of consistent thickness approximately 2 cm / 1 inch thick (it doesn't have to be perfect).
Then use your hands to gently squeeze out the excess liquid and seeds from the locular cavities (i.e. the tomato's inner compartments).
After the tomatoes are cut, line a sheet pan with an absorbent material like a clean kitchen cloth or paper towel. Salt the tomatoes (about ½ teaspoon per kilogram / 2 lbs of whole tomatoes) and let them sit and release more liquid while you prepare the oil and additions.
Tomatoes being drained on a paper towel.
Drained tomatoes on a parchment lined baking tray.
When the tomatoes are properly drained they should look like the photos above - empty crevices ready to be filled.
Step 5: Prepare the garlic and herb oil
Clean and mince or mash the garlic and add it to the oil along with any fresh (finely diced) or dried herbs you're using. Mix well and let sit for at least 5 minutes before using (ideally longer so the flavors infuse more into the oil).
Tomatoes being drained on a paper towel.
Drained tomatoes on a parchment lined baking tray.
Step 6-7: Lay out and stuff the tomatoes
Shake excess liquid off the tomatoes and pat them dry with a paper towel or kitchen towel. Lay them out on a parchment lined baking sheet. You will need two baking sheets to fit the quantity given in the recipe card below.
Use a spoon to pour some of the garlic and herb oil into the inside of each tomato.
Steps 8-9: Season and roast the tomatoes
Season the tomatoes with the remaining quantity of salt indicated in the recipe card below (or to your own taste) and also sprinkle on any dry seasonings you want to use.
Roast the tomatoes at 120 C / 250 for between 4 - 6 hours until the tomatoes are reduced and caramelized.
- A large pot to boil water
- A couple large prep bowls
- 2-3 full size sheet pans lined with paper towel at first and then parchment paper
This recipe makes approximately a liter of slow roasted tomatoes. They can be kept in a jar in the fridge for up to 7 days. Please be aware that oil preserved garlic can pose a risk of botulism so you should check with your local food safety authority if you have any doubt about how to store roasted tomatoes with garlic.
These slow roasted tomatoes are best served simply on bread, but if you manage to have any left, they can also make a beautiful addition to pasta, salads, sandwiches or dressed up more elaborately for a dinner party as a crostini appetizers with additions like whipped ricotta and fresh basil.
The simplest answer is maybe. Heirloom doesn't refer to specific characteristics of the tomatoes but to specific characteristics of the growing process: namely the absence of cross-breeding and natural pollination by bees.
This means that heirloom actually refers to a variety of different types of tomatoes with different characteristics.
"We love heirloom tomatoes for their idiosyncratic qualities. They often have have colors, textures, sizes, and flavors that vary from species to species, in the same way that apple varieties do." Bon Appetit What are heirloom tomatoes
Some heirloom tomatoes may be meaty and dry enough for slow roasting, while others may not. If you can find plum or oblong shaped heirloom tomatoes then there's a good chance they'll be great for this recipe.
Cherry tomatoes tend to have high water content and thin skin. They aren't ideal for roasting according to the method outlined in this post.
There are a few examples of cherry tomato confit online including Cooking Light, The Petite Cook, and Baking the Goods. While I'm sure the final result is still tasty, these recipes differ in some key regards from the method in this post.
For one the cooking time is shorter (1.5 - 3 hours instead of 4 - 6 hours) because a thinner walled tomato can't hold up to longer cooking times. The tomatoes also aren't peeled or drained before cooking. The final photos show plump and round tomatoes that still have water content.
This is very different from the tomatoes in this post, which reduce for so long that very little water content remains resulting in a chewy and firm texture as well as deep and complex flavour.
Beefsteak tomatoes are known for being meaty (which means they have a relatively lower water content and could be good for roasting) but they also can be very juicy (not so great for roasting).
There's a recipe by Saveur for confit beefsteak tomatoes. While the indications say the tomatoes should be peeled and then cooked for just over 4 hours, they aren't drained before cooking. The final product looks like it contains more water than my MIL's roasted tomatoes.
In general beefsteak tomatoes aren't known for their low-water content like plum tomatoes are so if given the choice I would still choose plum tomatoes for slow roasting. If all you have are beefsteaks then your mileage may vary.
In general you can use any variety of tomato that can be peeled and drained of excess liquid as shown in the instructions. Many tomatoes have too high a water content and do not have the structural integrity to stand up to peeling and draining. If you use those varieties of tomatoes you are likely to get a different result both in terms of texture and likely also in terms of flavour.
My Mother in Law's Famous Slow Roasted Tomato Confit
- 2 kg Roma tomatoes
- 6 cloves garlic very finely diced
- 1.5 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano very finely diced
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil very finely diced
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- ⅔ cup olive oil
- Preheat oven to 120 C / 250 F.
Prepare the tomatoes
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Prepare a large bowl of ice water.
- Cut two perpendicular lines on the stem end of each tomato with a sharp knife. Drop each tomato in the boiling water for 15 - 20 seconds and then remove and set aside to cool. The skins should peel right off. If they don't briefly blanche again.
- After blanching cut each tomato lengthwise into consistent slices approximately 2 cm / 1 inch thick and use your hands to gently squeeze out the excess liquid from the tomatoes.
- Line the sheet pans with kitchen towels or paper towel and lay out the tomatoes cut sides down. Salt them with about half a teaspoon of salt and leave them to release more liquid while you prepare the oil.
Prepare the garlic and herb oil
- Clean and mince or mash the garlic and add it to the oil along with any fresh chopped or dried herbs and spices you're using. Mix well with a spoon and let sit at least 5 minutes.
Stuff the tomatoes
- Lay the tomatoes out on a parchment lined baking tray.
- Drizzle the garlic and herb oil equally into each tomato.
Cook the tomatoes
- Roast the tomatoes at 120 C / 250 F for between 4 - 6 hours until the tomatoes are reduced and caramelized.