Oven-dried tomatoes are a staple at our place. It’s one of those cases in which homemade beats shop-bought a million times whereas at the same time making them yourself is so incredibly easy. All it takes is a bit of patience while your oven turns your fresh tomatoes into sweet and savoury flavour bombs. This even goes for the more dull, out-of-season tomatoes available in winter, but all the more so for the juicy ripe tomatoes available in the height of summer. Which is why around this time of year, I make a fresh batch almost on a weekly basis.
As is the case with caramelised onions, gently heating tomatoes for a prolonged time brings out their natural sweet and savoury umami flavour. Just a drizzle of oil and a sprinkling of salt, then the oven will take care of the rest. No need to add any sugar, because you’ll be amazed how sweet they’ll turn out to be all by themselves.
With their concentrated umami flavour they’ll add instant flavour to almost anything you combine them with, ranging from salads and grain dishes like risotto or paella, to sandwiches, wraps, sauces and dips. Choose different sizes of heirloom tomatoes for an attractive, colourful snack, or uniform-sized red ones to use as a base for red pesto, tomato sauces or tomato hummus.
- 1 kg tomatoes
- 2-3 tbsp. olive oil
- sprinkling of salt
This simple basis makes the most full-flavoured, sweet and savoury dried tomatoes. Depending on your taste and the dish you want to use them in, you can add additional flavourings before you put them in the oven, like chopped garlic, thyme or rosemary sprigs, shredded basil leaves, dried herbs, broken bay leaves or coursely ground black pepper.
Heat the oven to 120°C/230°F/Gas¼.
Halve the tomatoes. When using large tomatoes, cut out the stem end; in cherry tomatoes there’s no need for that.
Spread the tomato halves over a lined baking sheet, cut-side up. Sprinkle with a little salt, scatter with additional flavourings if using and drizzle with the olive oil.
Put the baking sheet in the oven and leave the tomatoes to dry until they are shrunk and wrinkled at the edges. I like them to be semi-dry as they are in the pictures: still soft and utterly full-flavoured. Cherry tomatoes will reach this state in 2-2½ hours; with large tomatoes, depending on their size, this will take 4-5 hours.
For a dryer consistency, leave the tomatoes in the oven for an additional 1-2 hours, keeping an eye out to make sure they don’t burn and lowering the oven temperature to 100°C/210°F if necessary.
The dried tomatoes will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. Use them as a snack, as a base for red pesto, tomato sauces or tomato hummus, as part of my lunch wraps with tomato hummus and walnuts, as topping for toast and sandwiches or as added flavour to almost anything, really.