Hands-free tomato sauce

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Meatball sandwich

Meatball sandwich with tomato sauce. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune / January 16, 2014)

Lately I've been leaving things on the stove, which turns out to be a terrible technique. Things on the stove like to be stirred and prodded and tasted. They like to be thickened and spiced and mashed. Frankly, they like attention.

Leave the sauce or stew or simmering leeks unattended while you step away to take a shower or write a novel and nothing good happens. Those sauces and stews and leeks get resentful. They act out, badly. They go gummy, get scorched or burst into flames. Dramatic.

You could stick around. But wouldn't that abet bad behavior? Try an alternative approach: roasting. High heat and low moisture intensifies the flavors of meats, vegetables and fruits.

Even tomato sauce, queen of stovetop tending, can benefit from midoven neglect. It mellows the garlic and sweetens the tomato, which — bound with butter — thickens into a luscious sauce. Leaving the cook free to get something done. Aside from quashing fires.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers

special contributor. Email her

at leahreskin@aol.com.

Twitter @leaheskin

Roasted tomato sauce

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 40minutes

Makes: 4 servings

1 can (28 ounces) whole, peeled tomatoes

4 cloves garlic, whole, but give each a good smack with a heavy knife

½ teaspoon anchovy paste

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut up

¼ to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Squish: Pour tomatoes into a 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Squish tomatoes with your hands. Take this opportunity to pull out any little green stem nubs. Stir in remaining ingredients.

2. Roast: Slide into a 425-degree oven and roast, stirring once, until garlic is soft and sauce is thick and jammy, about 40 minutes.

3. Mash: Pull pan out of oven. Use a fork to mash garlic into tomatoes. Enjoy tossed with pasta (thin with a little pasta-cooking water), spread on pizza or studded with meatballs, on a roll.

Meatball variation: Gently mix together 1/2pound ground pork, 1/2 pound ground beef, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan, 1 finely chopped garlic clove, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 3 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Roll into 32balls. Set balls in a wide cast-iron skillet (use two if they look crowded). Roast, alongside sauce, for the last 20 minutes, shaking once or twice to turn. After mashing sauce, stir in meatballs.

Provenance: Adapted from Bon Appetit

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