With prime tomato season right around the corner, I have had a major a hankering for some fresh tomato goodness. Sadly, the basil is flourishing right now in the garden, but the tomatoes aren’t quite there yet. This is my simple, early-season answer to caprese. It’s a delicious way to get your tomato fix with store-bought Romas while you wait for those perfect, juicy, summer fruits.
Part of the fun of this recipe is that it’s really not exact. Because at the moment, fresh tomatoes lack sweetness, acidity and texture, I add sugar and lemon to counter that, plus I cook the crap out of them. I know it seems like 6 cloves is a lot of garlic, but trust me, it is so so so good and the divine smell of it roasting will waft through your house. Really, this is a basic dish you can use for a ton of applications. If Mozzarella isn’t striking your fancy, serve it over pasta or on its own with a crostini. This dish is very easily modified to fit the needs of your tomatoes, so have fun with it.
Makes 6 side portions (if I have leftovers, I like to puree them and serve over pasta for the kids)
6 Roma tomatoes quartered lengthwise
6 cloves of garlic minced
A good solid pinch of sugar (like, about 2 tablespoons worth)
A good solid pinch of salt (I mean it)
1 pinch of red pepper flakes
Juice of half of a lemon
Approximately 1/4 cup of olive oil
Heat oven to 350°F
In an oven-safe dish, add the tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt, red pepper flakes, and lemon juice. Toss to incorporate, and drizzle the olive oil over the top.
Cook for approximately 1.5 hours, then stir to make sure they’re done. You can crush the tomatoes a little with your spoon if you want to release more of the juices, or keep them whole.
3 balls of Mozzarella, cut in half
Salt, pepper, and olive oil the mozzarella to taste. Wrap each halved ball in plastic wrap, tie to seal, and boil in salted water for 5 minutes. Spoon the tomato mixture over the cooked Mozzarella balls and garnish with torn, fresh basil leaves.