Are you sick of your summer garden yet?
It’s the end of summer, and the tomatoes are just coming in the kitchen. They are the last of the produce from the summer garden, but they are coming in abundance. If you are anything like me, I imagine you probably have a little resentment towards your canner and would instead not look at it anymore.
I took one look at what it took to can tomato sauce and said, “No way, no how, not doing it!” First, you have to peel them, deseed them, then cook down the sauce for hours until it’s thick enough. So instead, I figured out how to turn them into the sauce as I needed it. This preserves all of the tomato goodness, skin, seeds, and all. They also make fabulous “sun-dried” tomatoes that can be even better than store bought and used in pasta salads.
While usually here on the blog, I teach how to dehydrate herbs for tea and share recipes on how to cook with tea; my dried tomato sauce recipe is highly requested. So today, I’m sharing my sauce-making secrets. I hope to help save you from late summer canning woes when it comes to tomatoes.
Types of Tomatoes
First, let’s talk tomatoes. While you can dehydrate any ole’ tomato you please from the garden or the grocery store or local farm, some are favorites and work the best specifically for sun dried tomatoes and for making sauce with them once they are dried.
The standard slicing tomato is excellent for just that, slicing, but they don’t dehydrate so well. The reason is that the tomatoes are full of a lot of water, so there won’t be much of them left when they are dehydrating. These types of tomatoes are also not as flavorful as the ones I recommend using for this project.
Cherry Tomatoes - If these yummy treats manage to make it inside your kitchen, that flavor we all know and love to enjoy right off of the bush will translate into some fabulous dehydrated tomatoes. They are super easy to prepare for the dehydrator because they are small and don’t take as much slicing. You can also get a lot of cherry tomatoes on a dehydrator tray.
Roma Tomatoes - Romas are by far the best and my favorite! Any good paste tomato will do, but Roma’s are great for dehydrating for the same reason that they are great for canning; they are meaty! The more meat on the tomato, meaning the flesh, the better sun-dried tomato you will get from the dehydrator. This is the only tomato that I grow any more other than cherry tomatoes. We eat so few slicing tomatoes that I just use the Roma’s for that and any different tomato needs we have in the summertime. Romas are pretty easy to slice and get in the dehydrator.
Food Dehydrator vs. Oven Drying
Drying Tomatoes in the sun used to be the traditional way to make sun-dried tomatoes. Depending on where you are, that might not be a good idea unless you are in California, where it is hot AND dry. Not too humid or too cool. If that be the case, there are two ways to get these precious tomato beauties dried and preserved. They can undoubtedly be dried in an oven, and most of us have one of those. My favorite way is to dry them in an electric dehydrator, though, for consistency and convenience.
How to dry tomatoes in the oven-
- Slice your tomatoes in half longways about 1 inch thick. Quartering if needed (long ways) and making sure to remove any extra juices in tomatoes like Roma’s.
- Arrange the tomatoes on a baking sheet cut side up
- Roast the tomatoes in the oven at 250 F° for 2.5 to 3.5 hours. The tomatoes can be pliable but should not have any moisture left in them when done.
How to Dry Tomatoes in a food dehydrator-
- Slice tomatoes in ¼ to ½ inch slices.
- Arrange the tomatoes cut side up on the dehydrator sheet. Make sure to leave space between them for the dry air to get around them.
- Dehydrate tomatoes at about 140 F° for approximately 10-18 hours until dry and pliable with no moisture left. Dehydration times will vary depending on the type of dehydrator. The humidity in the air and the location of your dehydrator will also affect the time.
If you would like to learn more details about dehydrating everything from fruits to leaves, roots, and more, make sure you check out the Herbal Studio & Communi-tea.
Storing Dried Tomatoes
There are few essential things to remember when picking a storage space for your dried tomatoes:
- That dried foods need to be stored out of direct light unless used right away
- That they are kept free from moisture and at room temperature
- Store them in an air tight container to keep that moisture out
When stored in this way, these tomatoes ’ shelf life is about 18 months or so. But I don’t think you will probably keep them that long they are too tasty!
Now, if you want to store these as sun-dried tomatoes, place your dried tomatoes in a jar and top it off with organic oil; olive oil is the most used and most traditional form of oil to use. Make sure to store these in the fridge so that they last longer. The oil will become solid, but no worries. Just scoop out the amount you need with a spoon, and as the oil warms, the tomatoes will appear. That oil they have been soaking in makes excellent cooking oil as well.
How to Make Marinara Sauce with Dried Tomatoes
Now that we have the main ingredients ready to go, it’s time to start making that super simple marinara (spaghetti, pasta) sauce. You can use both fresh herbs or dried herbs in this recipe. Whatever you have on hand will work fabulously! As my family says, I sometimes cook like a pirate. You know recipes aren’t strict rules, just guidelines!
Marinara with Dehydrated Tomatoes
- 2 cups Dried Tomatoes
- 4 cups Boiling Water
- 1 TBL Honey
- 1 TBL Garlic Powder
- 4 TSP Basil
- 1 TSP Rosemary
- 1 TSP Oregano
- 1 TSP Black Pepper, ground
- 2 TSP Sea Salt
- Add dehydrated tomatoes and boiling water to a high-powered blender.
- Blend until smooth or desired consistency.
- Add to the saucepan (if using meat, sautee first and add sauce when done).
- Add the above seasonings and let simmer for 15-20 minutes. Simmer longer if necessary to reduce to desired thickness and/or add additional dried, powdered tomato to sauce to thicken.
We love sauteing ground beef, onion, and green pepper then adding our sauce with spices but the order can be done in many different ways.
See how much easier this way is than spending the time in the kitchen peeling tomatoes, deseeding them, waiting for the sauce to cook down, and THEN canning it? Plus, drying those tomatoes just intensifies the flavor, and you get to keep all of the nutrition from the tomato skins. Waste not, want not! It’s time to save space in the pantry with those thinly dried tomato slices and put those precious, oh so precious canning jars to use on other things.
I’m curious, though! What other things do you see yourself making with this abundance of dried tomatoes? I made a Pizza Tea with them once as a gag gift for my little brother, who loves pizza, but I bet you can find something else fabulous to make. Will you share with me in the comments below?
More great dehydrating & recipe articles:
- Zucchini Parmesan with Tomato Sauce
- Farmhouse Pesto Recipe
- How to Preserve Flowers for Tea
- Best Food Dehydrator for Dehydrating Herbs
- How to Store Dehydrated Herbs
- How to Dehydrate Herbs without a Dehydrator
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