How to Use Up Too Many Tomatoes

It was a good summer for tomatoes in my neck of the woods—lots of hot, sunny weather brought them and peppers out in profusion (but please do not ask me about my cucumbers. Sigh.) This, of course, means that we have to figure out what the heck to do with them all…which, thank goodness, we have. The peppers are easy: fresh slivered jalapenos are delicious in grilled cheese sandwiches, and the surplus gets sliced and pickled; bell peppers get nommed on all summer, and poblanos get turned into chicken with poblano cream sauce. They never yield, though, quite as crazily as the tomatoes…but we know how to deal with that.

First use is always caprese salad. The basil was amazing this year, so we ate a lot of those. But even fresh caprese salads can pall after the fifth or sixth one in two weeks; fortunately, we have other Ways To Use Tomatoes Up. Here are our favorites:

Summer No-bake Casserole

All quantities are approximate; it’s more the combination of ingredients that matters, and you can vary them according to taste (we adore garlic and basil so go heavy on them, for example.) I always make a big pot of this as it reheats very nicely for lunches, but you can cut this in half easily. I imagine it also might be good with crumbled or sliced Italian sausage or ground turkey instead of ground beef, but we haven’t yet tried it because we like this version so much.

3 ½ lbs. ground beef (personal preference is 85% lean)

2 boxes mezze rigatoni (this size and shape works the best in this recipe—we’ve tried several others and this wins hands down)

3-4 tbsp. butter (or olive oil, if preferred)

4-5 medium to large ripe tomatoes

2 16 oz. tubs of pearl mozzarella

20+ fresh basil leaves (I use more, but we adore basil in my household)

2 tubs refrigerated alfredo sauce (my favorite brand is Rana)

Garlic, diced (either fresh or frozen—4-7 cloves) or dried/powder, to taste

2-4 jalapenos, cored and finely diced (optional—they do add a nice crunchy bite)

Salt and black pepper to taste

Cook the ground beef in a large sauté pan till browned, breaking apart into large crumbles. Drain off fat and set aside.

While the beef cooks, chop the tomatoes into 3/4-inch chunks, core and dice the jalapenos (optional), drain the liquid from the mozzarella, dice the basil into ribbons, and heat up the alfredo sauce (in the microwave is fine, or in a separate saucepan.)

Cook the rigatoni in a large pot according to package directions. Drain all water when cooked and add the butter, mixing it in well (don’t skip this step or the pasta will absorb too much of the alfredo sauce, leaving the casserole dry.)  Add in the burger, garlic, tomatoes, and jalapenos and mix till thoroughly distributed. Stir in the warmed alfredo sauce. Lastly, stir in the basil and the mozzarella. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, and serve.

Pico de Gallo

Again, amounts are fuzzy here: start with the diced tomatoes, then start adding the other ingredients till it tastes good to you. The scallions add a lovely grassy note, so definitely use them rather than a boring old onion. The olive oil can help enhance the flavor, but can be left out if you’re going for as little fat as possible.

8-12 tomatoes, finely chopped

2-3 bunches scallions (both green and white parts), finely chopped

2-4 jalapeno peppers, cored and diced

4-5 cloves garlic, diced

Juice of 2-3 limes

1-2 tsp. olive oil (optional)

Salt to taste

Black pepper to taste

Delicious on fajitas and other Mexican-inspired cooking, but best simply with a big old bag of tortilla chips.

What are your favorite ways to use up too many tomatoes?






How to Use Up Too Many Tomatoes — 9 Comments

  1. My own glut of tomatoes this last summer prompted me to pay attention to Lidia Bastianich’s version of panzanella, sorta like your caprese salad but involving not only really good tomatoes but really good (and really stale) bread. Cut tomatoes and tear bread into one- or two-inch chunks, add kalamata olives and thinly sliced red onion, fresh basil and a little olive oil (Italian dressing if you don’t have the basil), salt and pepper. Let everything sit while the bread absorbs juices and oils and whatever for as long as you can–it never takes me more than twenty minutes or so–and then devour when you can’t wait any longer. (You can also add jarred peppers or artichoke hearts, or cheese or even meat for a slightly different experience so you don’t tire of having it till your tomato-glut is about finished.) Enjoy!

      • I am surprised that I forgot to include the garlic–it is an article of faith to me that when you lean over to smell any dish that isn’t dessert, it should have enough garlic in it to make you at least faintly woozy. And I also forgot to say that toasted sourdough is a great stand-in for stale bread. Seems to be my day for forgetting. Sorry!

  2. We would make spaghetti sauce and freeze it.

    One year my mother had a bumper crop. We were eating that sauce two years later, still.

  3. Gazpacho. Or at least my version of gazpacho, which is more like a liquid salad than a blended soup, but we like crunchiness. If I’m feeling lazy, I use the Cuisinart to slice or shred the vegetables (and to quickly chop the tomatoes). I thin it with unsalted chicken broth, a little oil, and lemon juice, then a little sugar to cut the acid. (I don’t do gazpacho with measurements, but by proportions: half as much cucumber as tomatoes, 2/3 as much sweet peppers as cucumber, red onions equal to sweet peppers, a couple of tomatillos, a couple of drops of Tabasco. Jalapenos are too hot for me, and my gut reacts badly to raw garlic or too much cooked garlic.) chill it about 3 hours, and then stir in a chopped avocado.

    • Forgot to say that I’ll consider adding any other fresh vegetables that you can eat raw — jicama, thinly sliced sugar snap peas, maybe even a sweet apple like Red Delicious instead of the sugar. But you have to think it over and adjust the proportions yourself.

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