Giada De Laurentiis' Tip For Making Out-Of-Season Tomatoes Taste Better

Nothing can "yuck your yum" like an out-of-season raw tomato; no amount of bacon in a BLT or ranch dressing on a garden salad can compensate for the bland flavor. Although tomato season only stretches from May to October, supermarkets sell varieties year-round. Yet nothing can stack up to the summer-perfect fruit. So, when Giada De Laurentiis craves the familiar taste at other times of the year, she turns to a tried and true trick to intensify the flavor: caramelizing them in the oven.

When preparing tomato-centric dishes "off-season" like fresh bruschetta or Caprese salads, the Italian chef roasts tomatoes until blistered and juicy, transforming otherwise 'blah' fruit into something sweet and savory — almost candy-like.

De Laurentiis prefers to prepare Campari, cherry, and grape tomatoes in this manner, first coating them with olive oil, salt, and torn basil — but this technique works with any tomato variety. Depending on the oven's temperature and the tomato's size, the fruit is ready within 35 minutes; De Laurentiis then uses them warm for her dishes.

Tips for caramelizing tomatoes

Caramelized tomatoes have the power to transform any dish into a delicious masterpiece. Their concentrated flavor imparts a savoriness that fresh tomatoes just don't possess. Before cooking with them, however, ensure the tomatoes are washed and dried to remove potentially harmful bacteria like salmonella, E. coli, or listeria. Once rinsed, it's critical that the tomato is thoroughly dried since moisture will prevent oil from coating the surface and, therefore, will prevent caramelization from occurring. 

If you prefer other cooking options besides the oven, Giada De Laurentiis also sweetens tomatoes on the grill, using thick slices of firm, larger varieties like Roma and Early Girl, which need only 10 seconds on each side. If you'd prefer to use small tomatoes, they can be kept whole or placed in a cast-iron skillet to avoid losing them between the grates. The high heat will similarly enhance their natural sweetness and even impart a subtle smokiness that the oven can't deliver. Both methods deliver more "tomato-y" tomatoes that can be used in various recipes any time of year.

Use roasted tomatoes in these recipes

Caramelized, roasted tomatoes can be used in any recipe calling for fresh tomatoes. Since they freeze beautifully, save yourself some time by doubling or tripling the batch and use them in later dishes, such as pizzas, burgers, and eggs like spinach and oven-roasted tomato omelets. Leftovers can be stored, covered and with their juices, for three days in the refrigerator or in the freezer for up to six months. 

For a delicious appetizer, season oven-roasted plum tomatoes with olive oil, fresh sprigs of thyme, balsamic vinegar, and sugar. Smear toasted crostini with a soft cheese like ricotta and top each with a roasted tomato. For something a little tangier, try the dish with homemade herbed goat cheese made by straining whole-milk yogurt. Or, serve roasted tomatoes with grilled meats or fish for a light Mediterranean-style meal. 

When the moment calls for comfort food, serve a buttery grilled cheese sandwich with a bowl of roasted tomato soup, and you'll never prepare the power couple differently again. To create this umami-rich soup, puree slow-roasted ripe tomatoes with heavy cream until silky. The recipe can easily be customized by adding garlic, onion, or herbs to the roasting tomatoes. If you're in the mood for Italian, you can quickly turn the puree into a thick pasta sauce by substituting the recipe's dairy with olive oil, too.