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willing, or, the best roasted tomato sauce ever

2014 October 2
by Rachel Turiel


I wish I were more casual about tomatoes, more like, “Oh, tomatoes? Yeah, sometimes they all ripen, sometimes not, no biggie.” And then I’d skip off to do something fun and frivolous, something lost on people who stake their well being on several hundred red fruits ripening. Instead I’m pacing the garden, seeing each crimson orb as a future indispensable player on the field of roasted tomato sauce. I’d ripen them with the hot blaze of my attention if I could.

Last month our friend Maja and her three kids led us through the spruce trees on a mushroom-picking foray, followed by a fungal feast at their house (Chanterelles and spinach simmered in cream sauce. Just saying). Rose said to me afterwards, in whispery reverent tones, “Maja is so nice. She’s so willing.”

Being willing is one of the highest compliments Rose can bestow upon you. It means you say yes a lot, don’t have a lot of stuffy rules for the sake of cleanliness and order, and you live a full, celebratory life now, instead of say, roping off the tomatoes for some future dream of roasted tomato sauce.


Last weekend, I promised Rose that we could swim from the bridge behind the high school to Paradise Island (the length of a very long city block), having no idea how skin-tinglingly cold the water would be, being, well, formerly snow. I waded in tentatively, middle aged mother-style, legs going numb in sections, hoping Rose would see the craziness in the idea. But no, Rose was screeching and splashing in her bikini like some future version of her spring-break-in-Mexico self. “You’re doing great, Mama, keep coming!” she shouted. And I became willing. I became so willing that I dove in. I screeched and splashed with her. I floated on my back, dodged rocks, and slid through the aquatic plants which Rose greeted like a kingdom of leafy green babies.

Rose has a lot of wants. They start at approximately 6:30 am and don’t let up until I’m kissing her goodnight and she reminds me to come back and check on her in fifteen minutes. Fifteen, she calls from her top bunk as I’m walking out to my own version of freedom. Fifteen, I confirm. What I’m saying is there is a lot of opportunity to become willing.


I’m trying to seize willingness when I can. Sometimes being willing means saying yes to a tickle session with Rose when I’d rather impersonate a very sedentary person on the couch. Or saying yes to taking Col to the Animas Air Park to troll around the tiny private planes even though this pit of mother-fear burbles up at the thought of my son behind the controls of any plane.

The times I can overcome my own boring inertia become its own reward. Rose’s gappy-toothed howls from a tickle session reverberate in my body, inevitably loosening some of the stress lodged in my bones.

We recently had the opportunity to foster a Mama cat and her nine kittens. It sounded vaguely fun and sweet, though before Dan left on his last hunting trip he kissed me and whispered, “I don’t want to come home to find ten cats in our house.” Would a more willing mom have said yes? We’re currently fostering four kittens which is exactly like having babies and toddlers in the house again: excessive yowling and pooping interspersed with heart-melting cuteness. Clearly, willingness has its limits.

Frost is in the forecast, which means all our blankets and tarps are pressed into service nightly because I’m programmed to fill the pantry with tomato sauce and salsa. I’ve published this recipe for roasted tomato sauce various places, but have tweaked it somewhat. I don’t add sugar anymore, and I usually use coconut oil rather than olive oil because current word on the street is olive oil shouldn’t be heated to high temperatures.


Best Ever Roasted Tomato Sauce

(makes approx 1 quart; I recommend making double or quadruple batches)

Prep time: 20 minutes; Cooking time: 1 hour; Clean up time: you don’t want to know.

4-5 pounds tomatoes

½ onion, sliced

2-4 whole cloves garlic

1 teaspoon salt

4 tbsp fresh herbs or 1 tbsp dried herbs

¼ cup coconut oil, lard or high-quality olive oil.

Additional vegetables, as available


Adding roasted, pureed onions and chopped steamed broccoli to the sauce to freeze in jars.


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the tomatoes in half and place cut side down on cookie sheet in a single layer. Toss onions, garlic, salt, and herbs on top of tomatoes and drizzle with oil. Or, if you have enough for multiple batches, roast tomatoes and onions in separate cookie sheets. Roast for one hour or until the tomatoes shrivel and collapse and their juices start pooling in the bottom of the baking dish. Process the mixture with a blender or food processor until smooth. If you want to remove the skins and seeds (which is unnecessary, though it makes for a prettier, smoother sauce), run the sauce through a food mill.

Addendum: Because my garden is full of veggies right now, I am making this sauce into a tomato veggie sauce. I usually roast 2 trays of tomatoes, 1 tray of onions, and then steam broccoli or kale to add in after everything else is cooked.

Kids at work: stripping kale off stems.


To Preserve: This recipe has too much oil to can in a water-bath. Must be pressure canned or frozen. I do both.



 The universal cat quality of finding the person least interested in you and nestling down on his lap:
Rose is reading for real, and as usual, dressed like she lives on a tropical island. Someone needs to break the news that winter is coming.

21 Responses leave one →
  1. Becky permalink
    October 2, 2014

    I just love Rose’s willingness – I shall try to live more like that.

  2. Andrea permalink
    October 2, 2014


  3. Jessica permalink
    October 2, 2014

    I have used your recipe for tomato sauce in the past, and it really is the best. Thanks, as always, for sharing!

  4. October 2, 2014

    Oh how I know about willingness! I have one just like Rose… When we lived on our farm, we used to never take the kids shopping. I mean NEVER. Now that we are traveling full time and living on the road, well, they come with us to grocery shop and to all kind of needed shopping… So it is basically hell… Mathilde has so many wants and needs. It is frustrating for minimalists like us to see our kinds falling prey to consumerism…

  5. October 2, 2014

    Now you made me sad all over again that I didn’t grow tomatoes and somehow managed to miss buying a box from farmers even. I LOVE roasted tomato sauce. But if the tomatoes don’t ripen, I found two green tomato relish recipes I really like.

  6. Jennifer permalink
    October 2, 2014

    Best ever future harvest of yummy tomatoes…keeping them out on the front steps for the next three days (before the last three where it snowed every day) of nice sunny weather. Husband commenting that I should pick some. Not quite ready honey. Mama and cubs visit, all tomatoes gone, every last one. Sigh. Life in the high country baby, life in the high country.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      October 3, 2014

      Heartbreaking! That happened to me last year with pears and raccoons. I feel for you.

  7. Bree permalink
    October 3, 2014

    I will be revisiting this post as a saved favorite, in the same way that your roasted tomato sauce has a front row seat in my recipe box come summer. BEST EVER is an understatement. My husband swoons and puts it on everything like a condiment; my kids think I am supermom. Everyone should be *willing* to make this at least once. Thanks for sharing it with the world Rachel :-)

  8. nan permalink
    October 3, 2014

    I used to think, I had to have my house spotless before I had company over for a visit. Needless to say I never had much company. I now always keep my bathroom clean, the rest of the house is what it is. I am relaxed , my family is relaxed, my friends are relaxed. A huge THANK YOU to you for teaching me that.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      October 3, 2014

      Nan, just this morning we invited friends over for breakfast, despite the excessive fruit flies, excessively-pooping four kittens, and general chaos of the moment. I semi-cleaned the bathroom and called it good.

  9. nan permalink
    October 3, 2014

    Dan reminds me of my husband. I foster puppies , he is not an animal lover, yet they all end up in his lap.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      October 3, 2014

      I think Dan maybe enjoys being put out by the kittens a little.

  10. October 3, 2014

    The striped kitty looks uncanningly like Rose! Same big blue-green-grey eyes, same nose, same trust in the universe. Quite irresistible.

  11. nan permalink
    October 3, 2014

    Just wondering, how do you keep Martha safe with all the kitten around ?

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      October 4, 2014

      Kittens and rat strangely, thankfully, uninterested in each other.

  12. nan permalink
    October 4, 2014

    The picture of Rose in the bucket, ADORABLE !!!!!!!

  13. Bonnie Z permalink
    October 7, 2014

    I came across your wonderful site while looking for something to do with the last of our summer tomatoes – love it!!! Thank you for this post and it’s message (and recipe too!). I need to be reminded when the laundry and dishes are piling up to be more willing – my family and friends will remember the time we shared, not how clean my house was! :-)

  14. October 7, 2014

    LOVE this. and love Frog and Toad! we picked one up from the library last visit and the story about Frog and Toad raking up each other’s leaves gets me all choked up it’s so darn sweet. haven’t thought about those amphibians since I was a young reader! that tomato sauce looks super scrumptious but it’ll have to wait til next year… our tomatoes are just about gone.

  15. October 15, 2014

    I keep coming back to Rose’s idea of willing. Even as I think I could be more willing, I find myself throwing up reasons why I’m not. There are still times to say no, but maybe I could say yes more (maybe I’d enjoy some of those yeses too). (But I’d likely still hoard tomatoes for roasting—their just so good.)

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