The painter, Bob Ross, was known for his ability to transform mistakes and incorporate errors into something wonderful. He dubbed them "happy little accidents" and rather than scrap his work and start over, he made them part of the creative process.
My "happy little accident" began last summer when an over abundance of garden tomatoes, limited freezer space and a dearth of canning jar lids made me rethink how I would preserve the bounty. A friend had gifted me a dehydrator, so I immediately put it to use. I began drying every tomato we could not eat fresh; cherry tomatoes, plum tomatoes, grape tomatoes; into the dehydrator they all went. The benefit was that they took up a lot less room than jars of sauce I had put up and required a lot less time and effort to process.
Only one question remained. How was I going to use up all of those dried tomatoes? Necessity is truly the mother of invention, and I found myself in the middle of making homemade pizza one snowy night without a jar of sauce in sight.
I pulled out a bag of dried tomatoes, and figured I had nothing to lose. What resulted was the best and easiest tomato sauce I have ever made (and with apologies to the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, I have made a lot of different sauces from fresh tomatoes, frozen tomatoes, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato juice and a combination of all them together). It was so tasty, I used up the extra pizza dough to make bread sticks the following day to dip in the sauce, which my family was eating by the spoonful.
The dried tomatoes created such a dense concentrated flavor of tomato-y goodness, I may never make sauce using fresh tomatoes ever again.
What follows is a reconstruction of what I made and possible substitutions. Feel free to edit to suit your personal taste.
EASY SUNDRIED TOMATO SAUCE
2 cups dried tomatoes (I used a combination of 1 1/2 cup plum tomatoes and 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes)
1 cup dry wine (Red or white will work here, as long as they are not sweet)
I cup of boiling water
1 tsp anchovy paste or 1 anchovy filet (optional) (The anchovies add to the richness of the sauce without any fishy taste)
4 large cloves of garlic, cut in half (more or less depending on taste)
1 small onion or shallot, cut in quarters
1 Tbsp sugar (more or less to taste, sugar brings out the sweetness in the tomatoes and curbs some of the acidity)
2 tsp coarse salt (more or less to taste)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper (more or less to taste)
1 sprig of fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp dried)
1 sprig fresh basil, roughly chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 can of good quality whole tomatoes (Muir Glen) or 3 cups of frozen tomatoes
Place tomatoes in pot and pour boiling water over them to soften. Cover and let sit for about 5 minutes.
Add wine, garlic, onion, and anchovy paste (if using) Cover and simmer over medium heat until tomatoes, garlic and onions are very soft.
Add canned or frozen tomatoes, sugar, salt, black pepper, rosemary basil, oregano, pepper flakes and tomato paste.
Stir to combine and cook uncovered under low heat for 15 minutes.
Carefully, ladle contents in small batches into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. If you do not like seeds or skins in your sauce, put sauce through a food mill or a strainer to remove them.
Return blended sauce to pot and cook until desired consistency, adding additional sugar and salt to taste as needed. If sauce is too thick, add water or wine to thin. If sauce is too thin, cook uncovered until the excess liquid evaporates off, stirring occasionally to keep sauce from sticking or burning at the bottom of the pot.