I’m a bit weird when it comes to tomatoes. I love tomatoes sauce, fried tomatoes, roast tomatoes. But when it comes to raw tomatoes, yuck! I really don’t like the taste of raw tomatoes. So every time there is a salad involved, or a sandwich or a kebab, I have to carefully remove all the tomato slices and dices. I don’t really know what it is, but I think they have a weird taste that just ruins food, and they’re watery.
However I do enjoy them in any other way, especially roasted. By roasting them with olive oil, garlic and basil, you enhance the tomato flavour by a thousand. The result is extra tomatoey, garlicky, oil, mushy goodness that can be eaten just like that, or you can mix it with some chopped black olives (the taggiasche olives are the best). What I like to do is crush the roast tomatoes with some extra torn basil leaves and use this as a topping for bruschetta or ciabatta slices. It’s great if you have guests over and you want to feed them something while waiting for the main dish to be ready.
I learnt to roast tomatoes from my mum, who uses medium size tomatoes and serves them individually, topped with a black olive and a basil leaf. I instead prefer to roast cherry tomatoes and crush them to make a lovely topping. You can also use these roast tomatoes as a pasta sauce, or you can add them in salads, or have them as a side dish…the possibilities are endless.
Ingredients (2-3 servings, as a starter or nibble)
250g cherry tomatoes, halved
2½ tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced
10 small basil leaves
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line a baking tray with foil and add a tablespoon of olive oil to cover the bottom of the tray. Add the halved cherry tomatoes then sprinkle some salt. Add the remaining oil and gently massage the tomatoes to make sure they’re all covered in oil and salt. Tear five basil leaves and add to the tomatoes together with the garlic slices, making sure most falls on the tomatoes. Roast in the oven for about 35-45 minutes, turning every 15 minutes. The baking time really depends on the size and wateriness of the tomatoes, so do make sure you check often to avoid burnt tomatoes. Charred edges are fine and actually add a nice flavour to the tomatoes.
Once they’re ready, remove the garlic and basil that seem a little too burnt and add the tomatoes to a bowl. Tear the remaining basil leaves and add to the tomatoes. Squash gently and mix with a fork and serve with grilled bread slices or ciabatta slices. For extra flavour add some chopped black olives to the roast tomatoes.