I love this salsa recipe, and make it every year for Fourth of July (and throughout the summer). While it appears deceptively average, it actually delivers electric flavor with each bite. This recipe delivers a deliciously vibrant, earthy, and slightly smoky-tasting salsa. The deep, caramelized flavors of roasted tomatoes and onions alongside the smokiness of the chipotles make for a richly beautiful and balanced combination. And, that color! It's beautiful.
Initially, I sat on this recipe for six months, waiting (and waiting) for tomato season. I waited through citrus season, asparagus season, and a good chunk of the stone fruits. Every few weeks I'd flip through my pocket-sized notebook and there it was, a messy scribble of black pen spanning three-quarters of a single page. The black letters were there to remind me of the deliciously vibrant, earthy, and slightly smoky-tasting salsa I jotted down while visiting friends in New Zealand. It is a salsa richly red in hue, accented with tiny flecks of green cilantro. We stayed with in Wellington for a week, and Hadley made it for us one evening.
Why this Salsa?
There are so many things I love about this salsa. The deep, caramelized flavors of the roasted tomatoes and onions alongside the smokiness of the chipotle makes for a richly beautiful and balanced salsa. The other thing I love is the texture. This salsa has a rustic, hearty texture which comes from pureeing a portion of the ingredients toward the beginning of the process, and then hand-chopping the majority of the roasted tomatoes and onions. With the roasted ingredients, it is a bit more effort, to be sure, but the payoff is big.
A number of you tipped me off to some great variations in the comments, and I'm going to highlight a few. Michelle noted, "This salsa was fabulous. I used a pasilla chile along with the the chipotles and it turned out awesome...It was wonderful on corn tortillas with homemade refried beans and a little cheese." Abby says, "I like salsa on my baked potatoes – cutting out the fat of butter!" And Kitt weighs in with, "If you have a smoker pan, another thing try is smoking your tomatoes and other vegetables on the grill. It’s an amazing flavor."
Roasted Tomato Salsa
If you don't have a guajillo pepper, no worries - just leave it out of the recipe. The salsa will still taste delicious with just the roasted tomatoes and chipotles. You can also substitute another type of chile if you like. The reddish-brown guajillo are known for their strong, complex and earthy flavor, and medium heat. Feel free to experiment with more readily available chiles from your area until you find one you really like to play off the flavors of the chipotles and roasted tomatoes. Two chipotles can be very spicy, consider yourself warned. Start with one, or even one-half a chipotle if you or your family are heat-sensitive, and work up from there.
- 2 pounds Roma tomatoes (or similar), cut in half lengthwise
- 1 medium white onion, cut into six wedges
- 1 large garlic clove, halved
- a couple pinches of finely ground sea salt
- 2-3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium dried guajillo chile pepper, soaked in boiling water until softened, and then drained
- 1 -2 chipotles in adobo sauce (canned)
- 1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
Heat oven to 400F degrees. Now gently tossed the tomatoes, onions, garlic, and salt with the olive oil in a large bowl. After they are nicely coated arrange in a single layer, tomatoes cut-side facing up, across a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the tomatoes start to collapse and the onions begin to caramelize a bit. Remove from the oven.
Puree the chiles (both the guajillo and chipotles) with the roasted garlic and two roasted tomato halves. Chop the remaining tomatoes by hand (once they've cooled a bit). Chop and add the onions as well. Season with salt generously, and stir in the cilantro.