Have you ever been to southern Italy after a tomato harvest? Tomatoes are laid out to dry in the sun, practically everywhere. It’s a sight to behold. Even roof tops are speckled red with tomatoes. Sun-dried tomatoes are mostly eaten like olives and cheese, as an accompaniment to bread. The tomatoes are chewy and moist, and at the same time dense and packed with rich tomato flavor. It’s a taste experience that’s alien to the taste of sun-dried tomatoes commercially available here in the States.
It’s not easy to find good quality sun-dried tomatoes. Sun-dried tomatoes should still have some moisture in them – they should not feel paper dry or taste like cardboard. It is easy to get the same quality and taste of the tomatoes in Italy at home using your oven. These dry-roasted tomatoes are so delicious, you’ll never purchase them from a store again. Use them as an appetizer, or in any recipe calling for sun-dried tomatoes.
(Pumidori Sicchi al Furno/ Pomodori Secchi al Forno)
Difficulty Rating: Moderate
2 pounds Roma tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
2 to 3 fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
4 black peppercorns (optional)
1 (8 ounce) canning jar with lid, cleaned and sterilized
Preheat oven 200 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Wash tomatoes and cut in half length-wise. Place cut-side up on baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops of tomatoes with salt. Bake for 9 hours, depending on the size of the tomatoes. Turn the oven off and allow the tomatoes to sit in the oven for several hours or overnight. Some tomatoes maybe done sooner. To test for doneness, squeeze the tomato between your thumb and forefinger – it should feel slightly springy. None of the flesh should ooze out. The outer edges and surface of the tomatoes will be dry but seem moist to the touch in the middle.
Press a few of tomatoes in the bottom of the canning jar, with a slice or two of garlic, a few basil pieces, and the peppercorns. Add a little olive oil to cover. Add another layer of tomatoes, garlic, and basil. Continue to layer the remaining tomatoes, garlic, and basil, firmly packing the tomatoes into the jar and covering each layer with oil. Pour remaining oil to within 1/4-inch from the top of jar, to completely cover the tomatoes. Cover with lid and refrigerate up to 5 days or freeze up to 6 months. Bring to room temperature before using.