Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil

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Dried tomatoes in olive oil have exquisite flavor, and what a gift to give yourself in the stillness of winter. Plum or cherry tomatoes work best and the "putting up" should be done during gardening season when tomatoes are at peak flavor. They store beautifully for months. Use them diced as a sauce for pasta, in salads, and for antipasto. Watch Mary Ann Esposito make Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil at CiaoItalia.com!

Yield: two 12-ounce jars

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Ingredients

  • 14 unblemished meaty plum tomatoes, washed and dried
  • 3 cups red wine vinegar
  • Two 12-ounce jars and lids, sterilized
  • 8 fresh basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons capers in salt, rinsed and diced
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, as needed

Directions

  1. Core and cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise.
  2. Place the tomatoes cut side down in a dehydrator and dry according to the manufacturer's directions. Or place cut side down on wire racks set on baking sheets in a preheated 225ºF oven. Let dry until they have the texture of dried apricots. This may take a day or longer, depending on the size of the tomatoes.
  3. Pour the wine vinegar into a large nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the tomatoes and blanch them for 1 minute. Remove the tomatoes with a slotted spoon and drain well. The vinegar acts as a preservative and gives added flavor to the tomatoes.
  4. Layer the tomatoes into the sterilized jars, adding half the basil, capers, peppercorns, and salt to each jar. Slowly pour the olive oil into the jars, pressing down on the tomatoes slightly with a wooden spoon. Make sure that the tomatoes are completely submerged under the oil at all times, or they will be exposed to air and potential bacteria growth.
  5. Cap the jars tightly and place them in a cool spot overnight. The next day, check the level of the oil and add more to the jars if the tomatoes are poking out of the oil. Check the jars two or three more times, adding more oil if necessary.
  6. Recap the jars and store them in a cool place for 6 weeks before using. Refrigerate after opening and bring the tomatoes to room temperature before serving.
  7. To dress 1 pound of pasta: Puree 1 cup of the dried tomatoes in olive oil, ensuring that you include some of the basil leaves and peppercorns, with a couple of additional teaspoons of capers, if desired, 1/4 cup red wine, and 1/4 cup of the pasta water, if desired. Then heat and toss with the pasta.