Roma tomatoes have less water than other varieties, so they work well for a traditional marinara or oven-roasted tomatoes. At my first kitchen job, I had to score, blanch, peel, halve, deseed, and oven roast 50 pounds of fresh Roma tomatoes every day. For the last 20 years, I’ve oven-roasted canned Roma tomatoes instead. It’s easier, canned tomatoes are always in my pantry, and my daughter can eat them all in a day, so I make them often. But since we got a bunch of romas in our last farm box, I scored, blanched, peeled, halved, deseeded, and oven-roasted them for the first time in 20 years. Use fresh or canned tomatoes. They are pungent, rich, and oily, yet tangy. And they’re delicious with braised meat, on toasted bread with fresh mozzarella, ricotta, goat cheese or burrata, with beans, in a sandwich, pureed into a salad dressing, spread on focaccia, or smashed and tossed with pasta.
IF USING FRESH ROMAS: Core tomatoes and score opposite end (a shallow x with a paring knife.) Blanch in boiling water for a couple of seconds, then immediately drain and cool. Peel skins off tomatoes. Halve them lengthwise and scoop the seeds out with your fingers.
IF USING CANNED TOMATOES: Tear the tomatoes in half and shake the juice off of them.
Arrange halved tomatoes snug in a baking dish cut side up. Sprinkle with a little sugar, salt, and pepper. Add a few cloves of garlic, a sprig of thyme, and rosemary. Pour olive oil over the tomatoes until they come halfway up the tomatoes. You want the tops of the tomatoes to be above the olive oil so they can color and concentrate—place in an oven or toaster oven set at the lowest temperature. I set my toaster oven to 200. At Canele, we used to cook the tomatoes overnight in an off deck oven heated by the pilot light. Let these cook long and slow. Longer than you think they should. I like to let them shrink and shrivel and concentrate and color a bit on top. This could take up to 6 hours.
Store in the oil in the refrigerator. Be sure to use the oil (as well as the tomato juice left behind if using canned tomatoes. I often use the tomato juice, along with other odds and ends of tomato products, to make a shakshouka sort of baked egg breakfast with the tomato sauce.