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Recently the proliferation of heirloom tomatoes at greenmarkets harkens back to the days of yore, when tomatoes were beautiful and irregular and presumably so full of flavor that after one bite you could boast about how good it was for the remainder of your life and try to make everyone feel like you know something that they don’t know and how much richer your life is than theirs because you’ve had this amazing tomato experience and they haven’t. (Whew!)

Nowadays the marketers and growers have gotten smart. It’s fairly easy to come across tomatoes that might look good, but may be hothouse tomatoes posing as the real deal. Which is why I like to buy tomatoes at the market, so I know where they came from.

Here’s an excellent recipe for encouraging flavor and sweetness from any tomatoes, even ones that are less than ideal, using a French technique called: confit, which means “preserved.” The slow roasting with olive oil concentrates and sweetens flavors, making any tomato boast-worthy.

Preserved Tomatoes recipe (Confit of tomatoes)

Servings 2 pounds (1kg)
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • fresh tomatoes
  • fresh herbs
  • Buy some tomatoes, just about any variety will do. 2 pounds (1 kg) is a nice amount.
  • Wash and dry them, remove the stem ends, then slice them in half. Pour enough decent-quality olive oil in a baking dish so that it just covers the bottom of the dish, somewhere between 1/4 cup (60 ml) and 1/3 cup (80 ml) should do.
  • Sprinkle in coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, add a few branches of fresh thyme and/or a few sprigs of rosemary. Then line the bottom of the baking dish with the tomatoes, sliced-side down.
  • Peel and slice 3 or 4 garlic cloves, slice them in half lengthwise and tuck them in the gaps between the tomatoes. Sprinkle the tomatoes with a bit more salt and a small sprinkling of sugar (less than 1/2 teaspoon) and add a few bay leaves, if you'd like.
  • Bake the tomatoes in a 350 F (180 C) oven until they are soft and cooked throughout (a paring knife should pierce them easily), which should take at least 45 minutes.
  • Once they're soft, remove them from the oven and let stand until room temperature. You can scrape the tomatoes and juices and herbs into a container and refrigerate them for up to 4 to 5 days or use them right away. They will actually improve as they sit.


The tomatoes are excellent, slightly chopped, tossed with warm pasta, or serve them warm over hot garlic toasts, showered with lots of fresh herbs.
Related Posts and Recipes

Canning Tomatoes (NCHFP)

Panzanella: Tomato & Bread Salad

Seville Orange Marmalade

Summer Tomato Salad

Cabbagetown Hummus


    • Fatemeh

    David, is it possible to freeze or properly “preserve” the confit? I find myself desperate for the taste of tomatoes in the dead of winter, and it would be lovely to have some on hand then.

    • Robin

    I’m so pleased that someone else is sick of hearing others go on and on about the (perfectly elusive) perfect tomato! I love tomatoes, I do–have even been known to “eat them like apples,” as goes the other great cliche trotted out by perfect tomato worshippers–but enough is enough. This confit looks delicious & I can’t wait to try it.

    • David


    Why not try experimenting with freezing them and let us know? The oil may prevent them from freezing properly. I can’t try it out since my freezer’s jammed-packed with Ocean Spray cranberries…

    (actually, it really is!)


    • Jane

    Hi David

    I’ve been lurking here for the past few weeks and I have to say that your posts are always so interesting and entertaining, but this one made me laugh out loud, on a day that I really needed it.

    Thanks so much!

    • Jess

    David!!! I just had the first tomato from my garden and – it was gross. I guess I’ll be cooking all of them. Nothing quite like an overabundance of mushy yellow tomatoes.

    • Meg

    David, I’ve found that not refrigerating tomatoes does get you closer to the mythical perfect tomato of days of yore; they do seem to sweeten well. However, if you are like me it results in half of them needing to be thrown away because you forget about them and they go rotten a thousand times more quickly outside the safety of the fridge.

    Regarding the freezing question, I have done it so many times and it seems to work just fine. I usually purée the tomatoes first but I don’t think it’s strictly necessary!

    • David


    I’ve seen your freezer…it’s almost as packed as mine, you couldn’t fit a ‘centime’ in there.

    I see from your site that you’re making up lots of salsa…hmmm, wonder if it’s for anything special…like a Mexican fiesta this weekend in Paris?


    PS: And Jess, you’re right. There’s nothing grosser than gross tomatoes!

    • Fatemeh

    I’m going to try a small batch this weekend; will report back. ;-)

    • farmgirl

    Yum, yum, yum! And just 45 minutes to bake. Yes! The only recipes I see like this always call for cooking for like 6 hours, as mentioned above. No way. These are obviously recipes created in places like England where you get to keep your AGA stove on all year long because everything is so cold and damp. Oh, what a delightful thought on this hot summer night. Great post.

    • David

    Well, it depends on the size and ripeness of your tomatoes. I bought a flat of tomatoes at the Bastille market this morning (at the end of the market, in fact) for 1 euro) and made the recipe. They were large and small tomatoes, and there were a lot of ’em, so they took longer than 45 minutes (one food scientist I spoke with from a chocolate company once said to me, “Don’t people realize recipes are just guidelines?”)

    The tomatoes I used in this recipe were small, about 2-inches in diameter.
    I don’t think it hurt to cook them for 6 hours, but it the heat of the summer, I don’t think I want to leave my oven burning for that long.

    • Norman Hanson

    David, thanks for posting that confit recipe. I had seen Chef Waters do it on the documentary about her, made it, and then forgot about it completely. Tomatoes are at the peak at the NY farmers market right now, and I’ve made it twice. Once for homemade canneloni (I pureed it), and once for who knows what? SO easy, and the house smelled so good too.

    • Maya

    Today is the 3rd time I’ve done this. It’s so good I don’t know what to say. I never like eating the same thing 2 days in a row but this is so good I can eat it all the time.
    The simplicity and the abundance of tomato flavor just hits the spot. I’ve added some whole or halved chilies, and also roasted whole garlic cloves at the same time.
    Leave the chili with the oil/sauce when it refrigerates and you get a real kick. Thanks ever so much for this idea David!

    • kim

    Planning dinner and this sounds wonderful, thanks.
    PS we are traveling to Paris in October, my favorite city in the world!!!

    • di

    Can this recipe be put into preserving jars and if so how long will they keep? The tomato recipe sounds yummy.

    • David

    I’ve not preserved them in jars, but I did add some links to the end of the post, just at the end of the recipe, where you can find more information and techniques for canning and preserving tomatoes.

    • toni

    I just made these with heirloom cherry toms and burnt my mouth eating them right off the baking sheet straight out of the oven they were sooooooooo good. nom nom.


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