Simple Garden Recipes: Maricela’s Oven-Roasted Tomato Salsa

Maricela’s Oven-Roasted Tomato Salsa

As we often mention in our blog, the garden dictates much of what we cook this time of year. And since we have sweet tomatoes and spicy Serrano peppers, it’s time to make salsa. But not just any salsa. We asked our friend and awesome Mexican cook (see her Posole recipe here) Maricela join us to share one of her salsa recipes. And while Maricela has a number of tasty salsas, with our tomatoes so ripe and sweet, she chose this version of oven-roasted tomato salsa.

Just a few ingredients. Quality and technique matter.

Roast your tomatoes, peppers and garlic.

The salsa itself has only 6 ingredients; tomatoes, garlic, peppers, onion, salt and a dash of water. But the right in-season ingredients, matched with a few key techniques and a little time, makes for a lovely sweet, bright and slightly hot salsa that you can use on just about any dish (probably not ice cream, but you get the idea). The only “special” equipment you need is a blender or food processor. And as this salsa is briefly cooked, it keeps for a while too.

Remove the peppers and garlic halfway through the roast.

Fully-roasted tomatoes. Note the syrup and caramelized bits- they need to go into the salsa.

Making the salsa is easy, but as we mentioned earlier, a few techniques matter. Firstly, you clean and core your tomatoes and roast in a very hot oven with the garlic and peppers (your kitchen will smell amazing). But a key is to remove the peppers and garlic halfway through the roast so they don’t burn and crate acrid flavors. Also, when the tomatoes are done, remove one tomato and put it in the blender with the peppers and garlic (add a splash of water if too dry)to create a very fine purée before adding the other tomatoes. This ensures that you don’t get rough chunks of garlic or peppers and their flavor is evenly distributed in the salsa. Then you add and purée all the tomatoes, but be sure to scrape all the caramelized liquid and brown bits from the baking sheet into the blender- this is where the extra sweetness comes from. And this extra sweetness is the perfect balance for the heat of the peppers. Finally, add your finely diced onion (see the photos and notes for Maricela’s technique) for extra bright and fresh flavors after you briefly reduce and cool the tomato mixture. None of these steps takes much extra time, but the attention to detail makes a world of difference.

For a fine dice, make multiple top-town cuts in the onion….

…then shave the fine dice from the onion for maximum flavor.

Puree the garlic, peppers and one tomato to ensure a smooth texture. Then add the rest of the tomatoes.

Simmer and reduce the salsa for 10-15 minutes, or until thickened.

Add the diced onion, to taste, to balance and brighten flavors.

And in the end, you get a delicious, versatile salsa. The oven-roasted tomato salsa lands somewhere between the chunky acidity of pico de gallo and the smooth heat of salsa roja. The texture is smooth and thick, while the flavor sweet but with a pleasant lingering heat from the peppers. This salsa works with tortilla chips or on proteins, but our favorite is just a touch of the salsa with scrambled eggs, cheese and a warm tortilla…an easy, tasty meal just about any time of day. Thanks Maricela!

Jar, chill and serve with just about any savory dish.

Oven-Roasted Tomato Salsa:

Notes Before You Start:

  • Maricela’s technique for finely dicing onions is uncommon in many kitchens, but the onion will have more flavor (similar to grating the onion). She makes multiple top-down cuts to the onion and then shaves it crosswise with a very sharp knife. Then repeats every 1/4 inch, or so. The result is a very, very fine dice that releases the maximum onion flavor, but be careful. Or omit this step and just dice as fine as you can.
  • Any large, sweet tomato will work with this recipe (we used Purple Cherokee and Brandywine). Cherry tomatoes, with a large skin-to-fruit ratio, will still be good but a bit more tannic from the extra skins.
  • Taste your peppers before adding to the recipe. Our Serranos were milder than usual and similar in hotness to Jalapenos. If using Jalapenos, expect 1 small pepper per 1 pound of tomatoes for a spicy salsa, 1/2 pepper per pound of tomatoes for a medium salsa, etc….

What You Get: A versatile, sweet and spicy salsa that keeps for a few weeks.

What You Need: A good blender (preferred), or a food processor.

How Long? 2 hours, but less than 10 minutes of active time.


(Makes 3-4 cups of salsa)

  • 4 pounds of large, ripe tomatoes
  • 2-4 medium-heat peppers like Jalapeno or Serrano, or to taste
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, skinned
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely diced (see notes and photos)
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt


  1. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 500 degrees. Wash and core the tomatoes. Wash the peppers. Skin the garlic. Place all on a baking sheet and put it in the oven.
  2. Roast the vegetables until the peppers and garlic slightly brown, about 15-20 minutes. Remove peppers and garlic from the baking sheet and set aside. Keep the tomatoes in the oven until the skins darken and crack, another 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven.
  3. Place the peppers, garlic and one large tomato (and water to moisten, if needed) into a blender or food processor and puree until completely smooth. Then add the rest of the tomatoes and scrape all of the juices and brown bits from the baking sheet into the blender. Puree until smooth.
  4. Pour the tomato mixture into a large pot. Add the salt to the mixture. Bring the mixture to a simmer over low leat and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the tomato mixture reduces and coats the back of a spoon. Once reduced, remove the pot from the heat and let the tomato mixture cool for at least an hour. Meanwhile, finely dice the onion (see notes and photos for technique) and set aside.
  5. Once the salsa cools, add diced onion to the tomato mixture, to taste. Adjust seasoning, to taste. Put the salsa in a sealable container and chill in the fridge. The salsa will keep for at least 10 days.

42 thoughts on “Simple Garden Recipes: Maricela’s Oven-Roasted Tomato Salsa

  1. Okay…that knife-toward-hand shot is making me seriously nervous. Then there’s all that RED. I can’t get past my own severed thumb imagery to fully immerse myself in the sauce…

    ….Just took a sip of coffee here at Starbucks. Feel better. Nerves settled. Salsa looks great. Will try it with my next haul of toms from the garden. Will need to face knife in other direction.

    • Like we said, it is an “uncommon” way to slice the onions…but it works for Maricela. She’s had some reps (does a nice side business doing catering/concessions at large local soccer tourneys).

  2. *smile – have never seen anyone chopping onions like that before – looks very risky – but if it works and no blood, can see that it’s extremely fine chopped – well done .. brilliant. I will give it a go myself, even if I’m a chef. Just for the sake of it. Love everything about this post – recipe .. result and photos. How long would you say .. the shelve life is on this salsa ????

    • The salsa will easily keep 10-14 days in the fridge, if not longer (it never lasts that long).

      As far as the cutting method, it takes practice…but even the practice is dangerous!

  3. This sounds awesome! I make roasted tomatillo salsa verde, but usually just add fresh red tomatoes to salsas uncooked even though I love the taste of roasted tomatoes in soups, etc. I think your photos have converted me.

    • Both approaches are good. In general, we like our chunky-style salsa with fresh tomatoes, but the brief cooking helps sweeten the more “saucy” salsa…

  4. I love these detailed instructions, including the reasons for them! That really helps your readers become better cooks, so thanks for posting. I’ve never made my own salsa, but this looks so good that I should try it.

    • Thanks for the kind words. In these kind of recipes the technique does matter, we’ve tried Maricela’s recipes without her “tricks” and they aren’t as good…

  5. This recipe really interests me, but alas, my tomatoes have been a big disappointment this year. I have never had this experience, but I’m sure next year will be better. I’ll add this recipe to my “next time” file! Debra

    • Sorry to hear that. Sounds like our tomatoes last year, that was a bummer. Hope you get a chance to try next year….hope literally springs eternal in the garden….

  6. A superb recipe, loving the idea, and now I really want this! I really shouldn’t read foood blogs when I’m hungry! I’m imagining the sharpness of the finely sliced onion adds a great piquancy to the salsa.

  7. Pingback: i’m loving it …. boursin filled burgers | myguiltypleasures

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