The concept of drying ripe Roma tomatoes in the sun to preserve them for the cold winter months was begun in Italy, where they were initially dried on hot tile roofs. Today they are usually dried commercially and can purchased in bottles, marinated in oil, or dried. I buy mine from these two quintessential Italian marketers:

Aren’t they so cute? They’re brothers who have been selling their wares in weekly markets in the Torino area for over 50 years. I purchase 450 grams, about one pound, of dried tomatoes for four euros ($5). It’s cheaper to buy them dry and rehydrate them myself. In my first cookbook, O Taste & See Some More!, I explain on page 5 a very simple way to rehydrate them. However, when I moved back to Italy three years ago my neighbor, Mariangela, showed me how she prepares them and I find the flavor is much superior. They are her signature antipasta (appetizer) so we enjoy them almost every time we eat dinner with her and her husband.

Some crusty Italian bread layered with a few of these…I could almost make it a meal. In addition to serving them as an appetizer, I like to add them to vegetable pizzas as well as several main dishes. The flavor is very intense to you don’t need to add a lot to a recipe to give a real burst of flavor. Here’s how Mariangela taught me to prepare them:

Italians do not use measuring cups, but a small glass for measuring. The important thing for them is getting the right proportion to the other ingredients. You can rehydrate any amount of sun-dried tomatoes…I’ll give you the ratio for about 450 grams or 1 lb. of dried tomatoes but you can adjust the amounts and just keep the ratio of liquids the same. First, we’ll heat up the liquids. I use two cups (or two small glasses) of white wine …

…and two cups (or glasses) of water.

You can use only water if you prefer; that’s what I did for many years though I’ve learned that the white wine gives them more flavor.

Once the liquids come to a boil, I dump in the dried tomatoes…

I stir them around and let them simmer for 1-2 minutes, then I turn off the flame, cover them and let them steam for at least five minutes.Don’t worry if they’re not completely submerged. The steam will infuse them adequately. You can leave them for more than five minutes if you are running errands or you forget them. Being a multitasker, as I’m sure you are, it’s nice to know they won’t be ruined if you get off on some other project for a while! After they’ve “plumped up”, drain them and let them cool. Then lay them out on a hand towel or dish towel set on top of a cookie sheet.

Don’t use your best towel as it will probably get a few red stains.  Leave them to dry for at least an hour. I didn’t used to do this step but I can see the value of it as the extra water is removed so that they absorb the flavors of the marinade better.

Once they’re dry, I begin layering them in a glass jar, along with slices of garlic and capers. The capers aren’t essential, though we really like them. They can be purchased, brined, in jars (usually near pickles, or with international foods) or else preserved in salt, as mine were…

If they’re in salt, rinse off the salt before using them. Capers are the picked buds of a caper bush which grows in semiarid Mediterranean climates such as Sicily. You can rehydrate tomatoes without capers–the capers just add to the color and interest of the dish.

After one or two layers of tomatoes/garlic/capers I pour olive oil over them. It’s best to keep layering in this way until the tomatoes are used up rather than waiting until the end to pour the olive oil over the whole jar. By adding it a little at a time, the olive oil goes between each layer of tomatoes and saturates all of them.

Occasionally you’ll want to press down on the tomatoes to compact them together.

So you just continue this layering process until the tomatoes are all in the jar, sitting in that luscious olive oil. Every time you take some tomatoes from the jar, you’ll get some of that delicious olive oil…and in the end, you can use what’s left in the jar to sautè almost any dish.

I used to keep my rehydrated tomatoes on my pantry shelf but then found they kept longer in the fridge. They keep well for several weeks, if not months.  Be sure to always keep the jar topped off with oil; if even a little bit of the tomatoes protrudes from the oil, they will begin to grow moldy….that is a sad day as you hate to throw them out if they get moldy.

Sun-dried tomatoes. They’re a staple in an Italian kitchen. I hope you’ll try them!

Ciao!

Debbie

Rehydrated Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Rehydrated Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 4 C. of sun-dried tomatoes (1 lb./450 g)
  • 4 C. water (or 2 C. wine and 2 C. water)
  • Olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • Optional ingredients: Capers, Basil, Oregano, Hot Peppers

Instructions

  1. Bring the liquids to a boil.
  2. Add the dried-tomatoes; cover and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Keep covered to steam them for at least five minutes more. They can be left in the pan until cool.
  3. Drain and discard the liquid.
  4. Lay the tomatoes out on a towel or paper towels. Allow to dry at least one hour.
  5. Place the air-dried tomatoes in a large glass jar or container alternately with sliced garlic and any other of the optional ingredients you like. After every few layers, pour in enough olive oil to cover the tomatoes. Keep pressing them down so they don't just float in the oil.
  6. Allow to marinate at least overnight before using.
http://ciaofromdebbie.com/blog/step-by-step-cooking/sun-dried-tomatoes-step-by-step/

Note:

In cooler weather, I store these tomatoes on my pantry shelf. However, they must be completely covered with oil. If even a little part of the tomatoes protrudes from the oil, they will begin to grow moldy. In warmer climates, keep the tomatoes in the fridge””again, completely covered with oil. Allow to come to room temperature before serving.

4 Comments

  1. 9-17-2015

    Debbie,
    I tried your recipe using two types of Italian tomatoes: Ciliega and Principe Borghese. They are both small tomatoes. I modified your recipe slightly. In addition to the salt, basil, capers, garlic & olive oil I added a little red wine vinegar and balsamic glaze (about 1 Tbs ea per cup of oil).
    Today, after about 4 days we tried some. I’ve had many store bought brands, …both domestic and imported, but they didn’t even come close to being on the same planet. These are DELICIOUS.
    Thank you,
    Richard

    • 5-28-2016

      Richard, I’m so glad you enjoyed them! Sorry for the delay in replying!
      Ciao!

  2. 2-14-2016

    Does the olive oil solidify in your fridge? I tried refrigerating mine and it turned into a solid block.
    Maybe it was the olive oil, or my fridge is too cold?

    • 5-28-2016

      Sorry I have not replied earlier! I’ve been very busy with our study abroad program and am just now replying! I’ve found the olive oil gets somewhat thick, but I wouldn’t describe it as “a solid block”. Perhaps your fridge is too cold, as you mentioned. I generally take a few out, with whatever olive oil adheres to them, and put them on a plate to come to room temperature before using them or serving them. Again, sorry for the delay! Happy cooking!

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