Brow Beat

How to Make Canned Tomatoes Taste (Almost) as Good as Fresh

Slow-roasted winter tomatoes.

Photo by James Ransom

This post originally appeared on Food52.

Last week, I decided to stop waiting for summer. Waiting for summer was not working. It hadn’t been working for months, frankly. But on the one hand, I’d already spent so much time waiting for summer I was reluctant to stop waiting. (Surely summer was about to arrive.) On the other hand, the sunk cost fallacy suggested it was irrational to keep waiting just because I’d been waiting. Would Daniel Kahneman keep waiting for summer? Of course not.


Or as my wife says, not entirely reassuringly: Just because you’re dating someone isn’t a reason not to break up with them.

So I unilaterally declared summer. Technically, I should have unilaterally declared spring, but once you start unilaterally declaring things, you get a little drunk on power. 


The next day I opened a couple of cans of tomatoes, smashed a lot of garlic, glugged a lot of olive oil, scattered whatever fresh herbs I had, and slow roasted the whole mess until dinner. I tossed it over farro, grated too much cheese on top, and inhaled the sweet and rich tomato fragrance. 

Then I took my bowl outside to eat in a snowdrift.

Photo by James Ransom


This is your new easiest dinner that is not chips and salsa plus beer. It is essentially pasta and red sauce plus time. But time! There is so much of it, even if we can never find where it went, and we spend so little of it slow roasting tomatoes. You can never get back the time you spent not slow roasting tomatoes. And if you have unilaterally declared summer, there is no better way to eat tomatoes until the snowdrifts drift. 

About the farro: You could use pasta, of course. But because there isn’t much to this dish—there’s almost nothing, as befits a proper summer meal—each ingredient has to hold its own. And the ruggedness of the farro is a perfect foil for the sweetness of the roasted tomatoes.

Slow Roasted Tomatoes and Farro for Winter
Serves 4

Two 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes
1 head of garlic, with the cloves peeled and smashed
¼ cup olive oil
A few branches of fresh basil, thyme, or rosemary (optional)
1½ cups farro
Parmesan cheese

See the full recipe at Food52.

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