Roasting a cherry tomato, even one that is store-bought, will turn a decent taste into an exceptional one. I usually prefer my sun-golds straight up and unadulterated, but roasting them to put in pastas or salads elevates those dishes to an entirely different level. It takes twenty pounds of fresh tomatoes to make one pound of oven-dried tomatoes, but even having a few on hand to throw into pastas or salads makes it worth doing.
The best part? It’s child’s play. Cut each tomato in half, put each half side by side on a cookie sheet, and roast in a 250-degree oven for 2-3 hours, or until dried (but not completely shriveled). Ideally, you want the tomatoes to retain some of their juices, start to shrivel up and be a bit caramelized before you take them out of the oven.
Okay, the tomatoes are out of the oven. Now what?
If you want to use them straight out of the oven, simply add a couple of handfuls to pasta with garlic, basil, hot pepper flakes and Parmesan.
Preparing the tomatoes for storage is hassle-free. Throw them (gently) in a freezer bag, write the date on the bag with a magic marker, and store in the freezer where they will be waiting on a cold winter’s night when you’re dreaming of summertime. Though they won’t taste as fabulous as fresh, it’s surprising how much sweetness they retain. In addition to using in a pasta, you can also puree the tomatoes into a lovely tomato soup or make a pasta sauce for lasagna or manicotti.
If you’ve decided not to roast these little gems, and instead figure you can just snack on them until the bowl is empty, please heed this admonition. No matter the size or the type of tomato, there is one unwavering rule — NEVER put them in the refrigerator. Storing a tomato under 55 degrees will zap its flavor. If you have a big batch and they are going to rot, eat them quickly. Make a tomato sauce or salsa. Give them away to your friends or neighbors. Just DO NOT put them in the refrigerator. I know you’ve all heard me say this before, but they really should be enjoyed the way nature intended.