I’m funny about tomatoes.
Not that I’m unique in that I prefer a juicy, ripe tomato over one that’s mealy and bland. But if I can’t get my hands on a really fabulous form of this fruit, I’ll likely opt out.
I blame my mom for this.
When heirloom season came around each year, my mom would fill our ceramic produce bowl with oversized, multi-colored tomatoes. The more bizarre looking they were, the better they seemed to taste (and the more they took over our kitchen counter and scared our cats).
She would slice luscious Cherokee Purples over seeded toast with cream cheese and shaved smoked salmon. She would lay crimson striped beauties over smoked turkey and avocado for an epic afternoon sandwich.
Though I’ve never been an avid enough tomato-enthusiast to douse one with salt and pepper and eat it solo, I’ve always been drawn to the vividly colored, funky-shaped versions of these fruits.
Even when they’re out of season.
Haven’t you ever felt like crushing a BLT in the winter? No? Just me?
I always know that it won’t be nearly as satisfying as it would be in the summertime when these fruits of the vine are at their peak of flavor, but sometimes I have the hankering nonetheless. Tender Romas, vine-ripened varieties, and even Beefsteaks just won’t cut it.
I’ve found that my best use for those non-summertime tomatoes is transforming them into a quick, garlicky sauce speckled with fiery red pepper flakes.
Even if they’re slightly bruised and on their way out, I can still produce a pretty solid marinara or oven-roasted tomato sauce that – when slapped onto a flatbread with fresh herbs or tangled with pasta and cheese – has the succulent, acidic, fresh punch I’m after.
So you can imagine how subbing a perfectly plump summer tomato into this scenario is like putting on glasses for the first time.
I’m familiar with meaty deep-red heirlooms, as those are my mom’s favorite. But golden tomatoes opened up a whole new world for me.
I discovered that not only were these sunshine-hued characters screaming with sweetness, they carried a citrusy note as well.
Mini SunGolds, a baby cherry type, seem to be prevalent at my local grocery store year-round, but I was looking for something heartier that I could blanch, peel, and crush over a bowlful of pasta perfection.
With the arrival of the summer heat, golden tomatoes (very similar to heirloom yellows) lined the shelves of my local produce market, and I couldn’t gather them up fast enough.
These yellow morsels had a thin, tender skin and boasted less acidity than the reds. I wanted to bring out their tart citrus undertones, and I knew delicate lemon basil was the herb for the job.
Though I wasn’t able to find it at my regular grocery store, snagging it from the local farmers market, where diverse herbs are found aplenty, was a cinch.
For another gentle hit of lemon, a sprinkle of fresh thyme did the trick. Lemon thyme would be even better, for an extra citrusy punch.
Yellow tomatoes are known for releasing ample juice when cooked, and they can produce a marinara that’s on the watery side. I let them simmer (lids on for safety) for half an hour to deepen their flavor and thicken the sauce.
A little Parmesan also binds everything together. All you need is Parm. I love that Beatles song…
I tossed my golden marinara masterpiece with linguine and fresh goat cheese, and was quickly treated to a round of applause by my noodle-obsessed husband.
I didn’t tell him it was really the tomatoes that deserved the standing O.Print
Need a change from regular red marinara? This golden tomato sauce is vibrant, sweet, and citrusy, thanks to a touch of delicate lemon basil.
- 4 medium golden tomatoes, cored
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup packed fresh lemon basil leaves (or substitute regular basil), thinly sliced, divided
- Cut a small “X” on the bottom of each tomato.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and generously season it with salt. Fill a large bowl with ice cubes and cold water.
- Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water and blanch them for 1 minute. Remove them with a slotted spoon and add them to the ice bath. Once they’re cool enough to handle, peel away and discard their skins. Quarter each tomato and discard any watery seeds.
- In a medium saucepot, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat and swirl to coat. Add the garlic, shallots, and crushed red pepper flakes. Saute until very fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the tomatoes, sugar, thyme, salt, and pepper. Turn the heat up to medium and cook until the mixture begins to bubble and simmer.
- Reduce the heat to low, and add the Parmesan and half of the basil. Cover the pot and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.
- Using a potato masher, crush and break down the tomatoes. Just before serving, stir in the remaining basil and season to taste with additional salt. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Category: Sauces
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: tomato sauce, marinara, golden tomatoes, pasta
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep, Core, and Score
First, gather all of the ingredients that you will need for this recipe. Wash the herbs, remove the thyme leaves from the stems, and chop the basil. Mince the garlic and the shallot.
Using a sharp knife, move in a circular motion around the cores of the tomatoes. Once the top of each is carved into a circle, use the tip of the knife to pry out the cores.
Cut a small “x” on the bottom of each tomato. Scoring them like this will help loosen their skins, and make them easier to peel once they’ve been blanched.
You can also core the tomatoes after they’re blanched, if you prefer.
Step 2 – Prepare Ice Bath and Blanch
Bring a pot of water to a boil and generously season it with salt. Fill a large bowl with ice cubes and cold water.
Drop your cored and scored produce into the boiling water and blanch for 1 minute.
Remove each with a slotted spoon and add it to the ice bath.
Step 3 – Peel
Once they’re cool enough to handle, peel away and discard the skins.
Cut into quarters and discard any watery seeds.
Step 4 – Cook
In a medium saucepot, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat and swirl to coat the pan.
Add the garlic, shallots, and crushed red pepper flakes. Saute until very fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes, sugar, thyme, salt, and pepper. Turn the heat to medium and cook until the mixture starts to bubble and simmer.
Reduce the heat back to low, add the grated cheese and half of the basil, and cover the pot.
Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.
Step 5 – Crush and Add Basil
Using a potato masher, crush and break down the tomatoes. For a smoother sauce, you could also use an immersion blender for this.
Just before serving, stir in the remaining basil and season to taste with additional salt if necessary.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Here Comes the Sun
Golden tomato sauce is far more than a beaming ray of sunshine in a bowl. It’s a sweet, lush answer to bountiful summer produce.
Don’t let this glorious seasonal gift pass you by. In fact, double up on the recipe, freeze it in batches, and let this fresh tomato concoction ease your cool weather blues when you’re missing margaritas and flip-flops.
Now that you’ve (gleefully!) loaded up on too many tomatoes, here some more of our favorite ways to put these goodies of the produce world to good use:
What are your moves when it comes to making a magnificent marinara? Dried Italian herbs? Roasted garlic? White wine? Share your sauce secrets in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on July 20, 2012. Last updated: March 1, 2022 at 17:27 pm. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Fanny Slater
Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”