Cherry Tomato Sauce

Little Tomato Pasta
It hardly seems real to me that the summer, which seemingly only just began, is now drawing to a close. What once looked like a vast expanse of time in which to accomplish projects and execute plans that I’ve had on my list for some time now is now behind me, with very few of those items marked off.

I suppose that’s the way it goes, isn’t it? Perhaps there’s a reason those projects are still on the list: they simply don’t take priority when other things come up. Sometimes it’s dinner with friends, sometimes a movie, sometimes it’s work.

This time, it was a MASSIVE harvest of tiny tomatoes that would be heartbreaking to waste.

All the tomatoes in America
Up until a couple of years ago, I only ate cherry tomatoes raw, usually in salads or from the veggie tray at parties. And as someone who is not a particularly big fan of raw tomatoes, I typically only ate one or two.

Now that I am growing my own, however, I must find other ways to use them up. I actually dried most of this batch, but I’ve been curious about what a tomato sauce made from these tiny, sweet tomatoes would taste like, so I decided to give it a shot. And while it is certainly more labor-intensive than pulling a jar of Ragu from the pantry, it’s quite a delightful way to make the most of the tomato-harvest of August.

Ready for blanching
This tomato sauce is nothing fancy: no herbs, no carrots, no celery, no sugar: just a bit of butter and the flavor of an onion that is cooked into it. It’s about as basic as it gets, and it’s wonderful. The tomatoes are blanched and peeled before cooking, which is fairly quick even with so many small ones. Simply slice an “x” in the non-stem end of each, blanch them for a minute or two, and then the skins slide off quite easily.

Boil to make peeling easy

Peeled tomatoes
With the tomatoes ready to go, the last two ingredients remain.

The only additions
Now normally, I only cook with unsalted butter. But I grabbed the wrong box in a hurried trip to the grocery store, so I gave the salted butter a shot in this one. If you go with unsalted, you may need to add a bit of salt to the sauce after it finishes.

Which won’t take long, by the way. In less than an hour, the sauce is ready to dress up a good sturdy pasta.

Add the pasta

Little Tomato Pasta Sauce
And there you have it! It’s a warm, savory way to use up a large quantity of little tomatoes. The flavor is bright and sweet, reminiscent of the height of summer bounty. And taking only an hour to prepare, it’s quick enough for a weeknight. Maybe even quick enough to leave time to mark another project off the list.

Cherry Tomato Pasta Sauce

Cherry Tomato Sauce
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
5-6 c cherry tomatoes (I used Juliets)
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved
5 T butter
8 oz rotini (or your favorite pasta)
salt to taste (unless you’re using salted butter, which I did because it was all I had on hand)

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. While the water heats, wash and pat dry tomatoes. Use a knife to cut a small “x” on the end of each tomato (the end opposite the stem). Fill a bowl with cold water and set aside. Carefully place the tomatoes into the water for 60-90 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, remove the tomatoes to the bowl of cold water so the cooking will stop. Once the tomatoes have cooled enough to handle, remove the skins from the tomatoes. They should slip right off. Discard the skins and place the peeled tomatoes in a medium-sized pot.

Nestle the halves of the onion and the butter into the tomatoes and bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer. Simmer for 45-50 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent from burning and crushing the tomatoes with a wooden spoon as they begin to break down.

When the tomatoes have cooked for about 30 minutes, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta to al denté and drain. By this time, the tomato sauce should be done. Discard the onion halves (and any layers that have broken free). Mix the pasta into the sauce until it is thoroughly coated.

Serve with or without a generous sprinkle of parmesan cheese.