07/09/2010 02:49 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Nine Lives of Roasted Garden Fresh Tomatoes

Timing is everything when it comes to garden fresh tomatoes.

Since last September when I plucked the last ones from their withering vines, I have not eaten a tomato because no out of season grocery store tomato is worth the money. Instead, I have waited patiently for this season's crop, and they have come in early and with great abandon due to the hot stretch of weather that we have been having. Tomatoes love that. Add to that the fact that we have not had endless drenching rains, which caused last year's crop to be watery, and you get great tasting tomatoes.

I am looking ahead though, planning on preserving as many as I can. Some will become tomato sauce, and the rest will be roasted and preserved for winter use. That way I will have the taste of fresh tomatoes all year long. Plum tomatoes are best for roasting since they are drier, pulpy and less seedy than beefsteak varieties.

Choose tomatoes that are unblemished; core and cut them in half lengthwise. Place them cut side down in a single layer on a lightly oiled bake sheet and roast them at 350F for about 35 to 45 minutes or until they are shriveled looking and the consistency of dried apricots. They should be bendable, not roasted to a crisp.

Let them cool then layer the slices in new sterilized pint sized jars. Cover the tomatoes with extra virgin olive oil and make sure that no tomatoes are poking out of the oil. Add a teaspoon of salt to each jar. Cap tightly and place the jars in a canner rack. Fill the pot with water to cover the tops of the jars. Cover and bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and gently process them for 35 minutes. Allow the jars to cool in the canner, then remove them and allow to cool to room temperature. Store for future use.

The uses are endless, but here are nine of my favorite ways to enjoy them...until next summer.

  1. As a topping for crostini
  2. Ground up as a quick sauce for pasta
  3. As a side dish to meat, fish or poultry
  4. As an ingredient for beef stew
  5. As a filler for sandwiches
  6. As part of an antipasto
  7. As a topping for pizza or focaccia
  8. Mixed into risotto
  9. As a gift from your kitchen

Find ways to use tomatoes in recipes at the Ciao Italia website.