Preserve your bounty of summer tomatoes with this easy oven-dried technique, and toss them into this healthy family dinner made with gluten-free pasta and a low-fat cheese sauce.
Right now, my garden is bursting with late-summer tomatoes, so this month’s Recipe Redux challenge was right up my alley … sort of.
The Challenge: “Whether it’s extra garden bounty or a sale at the supermarket – dehydrating food is a budget-friendly way to stock up for later. You can use a food dehydrator, a low slow oven, or natural sunshine to preserve natural healthfulness. Show us how you like to dehydrate, or a healthy recipe for how you enjoy using dehydrated fruits, veggies or other bounty.“
Here’s my husband, Don, picking tomatoes from our garden. He’s the Green Thumb in our family; I’m the Sous Chef
So how do you dry tomatoes if you don’t own a dehydrator, which was the dilemma I was facing? Well, I reached out to our Meal Makeover Mom Facebook community and asked for their advice, and I did some good old-fashioned Googling. The solution was simple: Use the oven.
First, I cut the tomatoes in half and squeezed out most of the seeds and inside pulp. (I was told that removing this moisture would speed up the drying process.) Next, I cut the tomatoes into 1/4-inch slices. This was a bit tricky, but since the tomatoes were being dehydrated, I didn’t obsess with perfection.
I tossed the tomato slices with 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil, spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and sprinkled with sea salt. (You can also use kosher salt).
I read somewhere that cooking the tomatoes between 170°F and 250°F is best, so I decided to use my Kenmore convection oven, and I set it to 180°F degrees. FYI: When using convection, set the temperature 25 degrees lower.
When I told Don the tomatoes would probably be in the oven for four hours, he wondered what the cost of the electricity would be! Thank goodness we have solar panels on the roof. The tomatoes cooked and cooked and cooked until finally, after 4-plus hours, I couldn’t take it anymore and removed them. As suspected, they lost most of their moisture and shriveled up.
Here’s what 10 tomatoes looked like after they were dehydrated. Don’t you love all the different shapes and sizes? I added about half of these gems to my gluten-free pasta recipe with low-fat cheese sauce, and I’ll probably use the rest to make bruschetta. You can also freeze any leftovers in zip-top bags for up to three months.
I decided to make a creamy pasta dish with a low-fat cheese sauce for dinner, and my daughter, Leah, loved it so much, she asked for seconds. (Not bad for a sometimes-finicky eater.) She even helped me style the photo with those gorgeous oven-dried tomatoes on top.
Gluten-Free Fusilli with Oven-Dried Tomatoes
Makes 8 Servings
I made this recipe with gluten-free brown rice and quinoa fusilli from Trader Joe’s since my mom is on a low-gluten diet. You can certainly use any type of pasta your family loves, and if you don’t have the patience to dehydrate your own tomatoes, use the store-bought, sun-dried kind.
- 1 pound Brown Rice & Quinoa Fusilli pasta
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups 1% low-fat milk
- 2 cups all natural chicken broth
- 2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup chopped dehydrated tomatoes
1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-low heat in a large saucepan until the butter melts. Add the flour and whisk constantly until smooth, about 2 minutes.
3. Whisk the milk and broth slowly into the flour mixture. Raise the heat and bring to a low boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and continue to simmer and stir gently until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes.
4. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese and tomatoes until the cheese melts. Best to serve right away.
Nutrition Information per Serving (about 1 cup): 390 calories, 13g fat (4.5g saturated fat), 380mg sodium, 53g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 16g protein, 10% vitamin A, 30% vitamin C
When I told my sister, Diane, that I was writing a post on dehydrating, she told me I’d save myself a lot of time if I simply posted a photo of an empty bottle of tequila and told my readers that I drank it and dehydrated myself. Funny, isn’t she? Liz will likely disapprove of this picture, but hey, it’s my blog post.
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