While I love to slow-roast big, fat juicy beefsteaks, the quick-roasting method (higher heat) works well with smaller tomatoes, especially plums. Seeding the tomatoes first means less moisture to evaporate and more time for the juices to caramelize. You get great flavor without having the oven on for two or three hours. They’re delicious on their own, but they’re also a versatile recipe ingredient. (Think burger toppings, pizza toppings, salads, sauces, tarts, and more.) You can also turn the tomatoes into a deeply flavorful tomato sauce (great for topping pizza) by popping everything (extra oil included) in the blender or food processor after roasting.  Or make a quick appetizer or antipasto by folding a tomato over a small piece of fresh mozzarella and a basil leaf.

Makes 20 to 24 tomato halves

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 10 to 12 plum tomatoes or small meaty sandwich tomatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • Sugar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 large or 2 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a large heavy-duty rimmed sheet pan with aluminum foil and then with a piece of parchment paper. (Covering the pan with foil first makes cleanup a whole lot easier.) Brush 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over the parchment.

2. If you’re using plum tomatoes, slice the tomatoes in half from stem to blossom end. If you’re using sandwich tomatoes, slice each tomato in half through the equator. Gently poke the seeds out of each half. (If using plum tomatoes, a serrated tomato scooper or melon baller can get the seeds out without damaging the tomato.) Arrange the tomato halves, cut side up, on the parchment. Sprinkle each half very lightly with salt. Sprinkle each half with a little bit of sugar.

3. Put a small amount of balsamic vinegar in a bowl and use a small (1/8 teaspoon) measuring spoon to season each half with just a bit of balsamic. Put a garlic slice and a few thyme leaves in each half.

4. Drizzle and pour the 1/3 cup olive into and around the rims of each tomato half, distributing as evenly as possible.

5. Roast the tomatoes until they are dark brown on the edges and somewhat collapsed, 45 to 55 minutes. Let them cool for a few minutes on the sheet pan. Tip any excess oil out of the tomatoes if you like. Serve warm or at room temperature. Or store in a covered container in the refrigerator for a week or in the freezer for 2 to 3 months.

To make sauce out of the tomatoes:

1. Put the cooled tomato halves and any oil left on the sheet pan into a food processor and pulse until pureed, adding a bit more olive oil if you like. Taste and season with a bit of balsamic vinegar if you like. The sauce will be quite thick. You do not need to loosen it further at this point or at all if using for pizza, but if you want to use the sauce on pasta, you can thin it with a little pasta-cooking water at the time of serving.

Susie Middleton