New Jersey Red Sauce

27 August 2016

Christopher Lott
2 min readMay 25, 2020

This is the holy grail that appears in my local New Jersey farmers’ markets in good years about late August: a huge basket of ripe tomatoes for a very small price. That’s the time to make red sauce!

My recipe has a quirk or two that I thought might be worth sharing: I roast the tomatoes and use the skins. A roasted tomato skin blends down to a thick paste with all kinds of flavor, no waste! Altho running the oven on a sweaty August day when the A/C is running hard just kills me, the result is great. I’ve tried parboiling the tomatoes to remove the skins, but that yields a watery sauce.

This yields 8–10 cups of finished sauce, plenty for several meals.


  • About 24 large tomatoes or 40 plum tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 cloves garlic (or more)
  • 2 sprigs of fresh basil (or more — depends on your family :)
  • 1 sprig fresh oregano
  • Extra virgin olive oil


  • Lightly spread olive oil on 2 13x18 sheet trays. Don’t need much, just want to prevent them sticking.
  • Wash tomatoes, slice in half and remove the stem/core bit.
  • Arrange the halves on baking sheets, leaving a bit of space. Don’t overfill, they throw off a lot of juice as they roast.
  • Bake or broil tomatoes at 400 deg F about 20–30 minutes until skins wrinkle, loosen and char. The picture here shows them just barely ready. Extra char means extra flavor! This also evaporates some water.
  • While the tomatoes are roasting, dice the onion and crush the garlic, put in pot with generous olive oil, sweat over modest heat until soft and slightly caramelized.
  • Pluck skins off tomatoes — tongs work well! Try to resist eating the skins. They’re a little sweet.
  • Blend the skins with a bit of tomato juice from the sheet trays until they are paste, add to pot.
  • Coarsely chop the tomatoes and add to pot.
  • If the juice left on the trays is super thin and watery, put it in a separate pot and boil to reduce it; if it looks ok, add it to the pot also.
  • Simmer 15 minutes, I prefer uncovered to let some water escape and reduce it. If you had to reduce the tray juice separately, add it to the main pot.
  • Finely chop and add the herbs, simmer another minute or two
  • Use an immersion blender in the pot to produce a smooth sauce.