When it comes to tomato salsa, a chunky pico de gallo will always be my number one. It's bright, it's fresh, it's got a nice crunch.
But nothing gives me anxiety at a party like trying to carry on conversation while simultaneously coaxing slippery tomato and onion pieces onto the edge of a chip and praying that the chip won't buckle under their weight. So, when I have a party, pico is not invited.
Enter: Salsa Roja. Salsa Roja is always invited to the party.
This roasted tomato salsa packs a punch of flavor with minimal ingredients and is shockingly hands-off to make.
Because the tomatoes, onion, and peppers take a trip through a food processor, you end up with a homogenous salsa that evenly coats your tortilla chips so you can munch comfortably without fear of looking awkward in front of all your cool party friends.
The recipe below makes a full two quarts of salsa (almost 8 cups!!!). Lest you think that's too much salsa let me tell you:
- It freezes beautifully.
- It's great with eggs, steak, burritos, tacos, pupusas, potatoes, salads, pasta, onion rings, mozzarella sticks, instead of pizza sauce, with grilled chicken, hot dogs, hamburgers, meatloaf, and so on. Bring half of it to the party and keep half of it for an easy addition to your next week of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
- There's no such thing as too much salsa, only too few chips.
Until I moved to L.A. and began to experience the full breadth of variations in Mexican cuisine, I never thought much about the different kinds of salsa. I’m far from an expert. I can really only speak to my own palate and preferences when it comes to the salsas I make at home. If you want to learn more about the origins and history of salsa and its place in Mexican cuisine, I recommend this and this.
how to make salsa roja
First, roast your veggies under the broiler. Broiling is about as close as you can get to replicating the effect of a grill from the comfort of your own kitchen. It's a close application of high, direct, dry heat to encourage caramelization and browning.
Roast the tomatoes whole, stem-side facing down. The onion cut into quarters. The peppers get halved lengthwise so you can remove the seeds and ribs before roasting.
In most ovens, the broiler is in the top of the oven. Adjust one of your oven racks so it's on the top-most setting and let the broiler fully preheat before use.
If you don't see a broiler setting, simply crank the heat of your oven up as high as you can. If you don't have a broiler in your oven but you do, for some reason, have a propane torch (aka a culinary torch), you can use that instead. And obviously, yes, you could use a grill to do this but that just wouldn't be very quick-and-easy, now would it?
Then, pulverize the roasted veggies along with 2-3 cloves of garlic and some salt. Use a food processor, blender, or immersion blender, checking and tasting periodically to see if it needs more salt, or if you like the consistency. You can make it as chunky or smooth as you want.
For a salsa that has some tomato chunks in it, leave one of the roasted tomatoes out of the blender. Chop it into a small dice and sprinkle it with a pinch of salt. Mix it directly into the pulverized salsa, or use it to top the salsa in the serving bowl.
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perfect for a party salsa roja (roasted tomato and veggie salsa)
- 1 lb roma tomatoes (or tomatoes on the vine)
- 1 large white onion
- 2 serrano peppers
- 1 poblano pepper
- 1 red bell pepper
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
- Preheat oven to broil with an oven rack on the top rack. Line a sheet tray with aluminum foil.
- Cut onion into quarters. Cut red bell pepper, poblano pepper, and serrano peppers in half, remove seeds and ribs. Optional: Leave the seeds and ribs on some/all of the hot peppers for a spicier salsa.
- Place the tomatoes, whole, stem-side down on the sheet tray. Cut the peppers in half and arrange them cut-side down, skin-side up. Cut the onion into quarters, slicing through the stem end and arrange them skin-side down (but remove the skins).Roast the veggies under the broiler on the top oven rack for 10-15 minutes. The skin of vegetables should be deeply browned in spots, but not burned.
- Place all the roasted veggies, plus garlic cloves and salt in a blender or food processor and process until desired consistency has been reached. For a chunkier salsa, run on low speed for a shorter amount of time. For a more sauce-like salsa, run on high speed for a longer amount of time. Adjust salt to taste.
- Serve warm or cold.
- To freeze: Put the portion you plan to freeze in a saucepan over medium heat and let it simmer until it thickens slightly and some of the liquid has evaporated. Let it come to room temp before you freeze it. Make sure to leave ½" of air at the top of the container, because the salsa will expand as it freezes.
- If you don't have a broiler setting on your oven, crank the heat as high as it goes and use the top-most rack. OR use a propane/culinary torch OR grill the veggies.
- Alternate instructions: Roast the peppers and onions under the broiler. Pulverize with the raw tomatoes and garlic in the blender. Then transfer that mixture to a sauce pot, bring to a low boil, then reduce temp and let simmer for 20-30 minutes. This can help intensify the flavors in the salsa, but also creates one additional dish to wash.