This recipe is adapted from a Cook's Illustrated Huevos Rancheros recipe, and it became my go-to salsa from the moment I first made it. All the veg roasts up in the oven, and then everything goes into the food processor and you're done! It's also easy to riff on: add more cayenne or jalapeño for a spicier version, more tomato paste for a tomato-ier version, puree more or less for smoother or chunkier versions. My friend Jennie suggests adding a teaspoon of ground Szechuan peppercorns for an unexpected bite—not "authentic" by any means, but unusual and delicious.
8 plum tomatoes
1 small yellow onion or 1/2 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (or more if you like it spicy)
3 tablespoons minced cilantro (depending on how much cilantro you like)
2 tablespoons lime juice (or less, depending on your taste)
Step 1Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375°F.
Step 2Mince one jalapeño and set aside. Cut the other two jalapeños in half long-ways. (If you like your salsa spicy, leave the seeds and ribs in. If not, remove the seeds and ribs.) Cut the tomatoes in half long-ways and remove any tough cores. Cut the onion into 1/2-inch wedges.
Step 3In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, the 4 jalapeño halves, the onion, garlic, tomato paste, vegetable oil, salt, cumin, and cayenne, and mix everything up. The way I like to do this is to make a dressing out of the tomato paste, oil, salt, and spices, then pour it over the vegetables so that the mixture gets really evenly distributed.
Step 4Line a baking sheet with foil (for easier clean up!) and place the vegetables cut-side down on the sheet. Roast for about 45 minutes, until the tomato skins begin to turn brown and everything starts to look a little mushy. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes.
Step 5Using tongs or a slotted spoon (or any spoon, really) transfer the roasted onions, garlic, and jalapeños to the bowl of food processor. Pulse until the vegetables start to break down, about 10 pulses, then scrape down the sides of bowl and pulse another 10 times until the vegetables are very broken down.
Step 6Add the tomatoes and process until the salsa is as chunky as you like it. Add the minced cilantro, the reserved minced jalapeño, and salt, pepper, and lime juice to taste.