In the late summer and early fall months I literally roast hundreds of pounds of heirloom and organic tomatoes for soups and sauces.  When harvesting slow down a bit, I actually make a couple dozen jars (or more) of sauce that we keep on hand for pizza, chili, pasta, and soups.. The sauces have different seasoning profiles so I can just thaw and use for many different recipes.  Taking a little time in the fall to prepare these sauces saves me hours of time throughout the winter.  Recently we used our last jar.  But we have tomatoes waiting for us in the freezer, so we’ll get more made to get us through the next six months. The last jar went towards a penne pasta dish that I thought I’d share. This is a spicy penne, but you can dial down the heat to your liking.  We also served it with meatballs and pasta, but the sauce itself is vegetarian/vegan/gluten free so you can adapt it to whatever recipe you like.

The meatball recipe is below.  This is a killer-good recipe and easily adapted to your liking by simply adjusting herbs or substituting rice in place of breadcrumbs.


Makes 2 Quarts of Sauce

  • 6 lbs of ripe heirloom tomatoes (this is what we use, but any ripe tomatoes will do), chopped
  • 4 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large onions, rough chopped
  • 1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and separated
  • 5-6 sprigs fresh thyme leaves (or 2 T dry)
  • 1 T dry oregano6 bay leaves, whole
  • 1 T kosher salt
  • 2 C organic tomato paste
  • 2 T organic sugar
  • 2 tsp chili flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 C good red wine – like a zin or a cab
  • 1 C fresh organic basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 C fresh organic Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 lb penne pasta (or your favorite pasta)
  • Freshly grated asiago, romano or parmesan
  • 1/4 C basil for garnish

Preheat oven to 450 F.  In a large hotel pan (or cookie sheet with 2″ sides), place in all the ingredients and toss well with olive oil and salt.  Place tomatoes in center of oven and roast for 30 minutes. There will be a lot of juices, so carefully remove from oven when done roasting.  Don’t discard juices – this becomes a part of the sauce.

Scoop all the roasted tomatoes and juices into a large stock pot.  Remove bay leaves.  Add in 2 cups organic tomato paste and sugar and with an immersion blender puree the tomatoes.  You can completely puree for a silky smooth consistency or leave slightly chunky.  Either way is fine.  Add in wine, basil and parsley and lightly puree again.  Simmer on low heat for about an hour.  Liquids will reduce slightly and that’s good. You need this to occur so the sauce will cling to the pasta.  Just a few minutes before sauce is done, cook pasta according to directions.  Drain and toss 3 to 4 cups of sauce with pasta.  Plate up with a garnish of basil and freshly grated asiago.


Ingredients for Meatballs

Makes 40 forkable meatballs

  • 1-1/2 C fresh breadcrumbs, finely chopped
  • 1 C heavy cream
  • ! C onion, finely diced
  • 2 T minced fresh garlic
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T fresh thyme (or dry)
  • 1 T dry oregano
  • 2 tsp fennel seed
  • 1/4 C organic basil, chopped
  • 1/4 C organic Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 2 organic farm eggs
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp cracked black pepper

In a medium sized mixing bowl, soak breadcrumbs in the cream.  On medium heat, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil until onions are soft – approximately 5 minutes.  Set aside to cool.  Preheat oven to 425 F.  Into the same bowl as the cream and breadcrumb mixture, add the thyme, oregano, fennel, basil, parsley, ground beef and pork, eggs and salt & pepper and mix until well incorporated. Begin forming 1-1/2″ round balls and place in row on a parchment lined sheet pan.  Once all the meatballs are formed, place in oven and roast for 12-15 minutes.  Serve with the pasta and a little of the roasted heirloom sauce on the side or drizzled over the top.  We had the pasta and meatballs with garlic sautéed broccoli and a simple romaine lettuce salad with lemon vinaigrette.  Super good and leftovers for the next day!  The boys made meatball subs!

Cook’s Notes:

  • The meatballs freeze really well so if you have extra, seal tightly in ziplock bag or in freezer container.
  • Sauce also freezes really well for up to 6 months in sealed quart jars
  • For a vegetarian / vegan diets this meal is substantial without the meatballs
  • For gluten free diets, simply serve with gluten free pasta and substitute the breadcrumbs in the meatballs for 1-1/2 cups brown or white rice
  • We don’t peel or seed tomatoes, but if you prefer to not have them in your sauce, you can score tomatoes and put in boiling water for a couple of minutes.  Remove from water and peel the skins.  After roasting, puree sauce and run through a sieve to remove seeds.