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Say tomato

Thinking big when it comes to food doesn't just save money -- it saves time, too. Cook up jumbo batches of this classic ingredient for a great payoff: three dinners that are ready to go.

Whole roasted tomatoes

When you spot a good deal on plum (or Roma) tomatoes, buy a bunch. Roasting preserves them for later use and maximizes their sweetness. Our recipe makes enough for all the tomato dishes that follow.

Makes 10 cups

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Divide 8 pounds plum tomatoes (about 45) and 6 sprigs thyme between two shallow baking pans or rimmed baking sheets.

2. Toss with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil; season with coarse salt and ground pepper.

3. Bake until tomatoes burst, about 45 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Let cool, then coarsely chop.

Tip: Refrigerate tomatoes in airtight containers, up to 3 days, or freeze in 2-, 3- or 4-cup portions, up to 3 months.

Nutritional information per cup: 91 calories, 4 grams fat, 14 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 4 grams fiber and 40 percent of calories from fat.

Roasted-tomato pasta with basil

Serves 4

Coarse salt and ground

pepper

12 ounces medium pasta shells

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

2 cups whole roasted

tomatoes (see above)

Grated parmesan and torn fresh basil leaves, for serving

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain pasta and return to pot.

2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Toss with pasta. Serve topped with parmesan and basil.

Nutritional information per serving: 485 calories, 17 grams fat, 71 grams carbohydrates, 13 grams protein, 5 grams fiber and 32 percent of calories from fat.

Beef and tomato stew

Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 pounds chuck roast, cut

into 1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces

Coarse salt and ground pepper

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

3 cups whole roasted tomatoes

(see above)

1 bay leaf

2 wide strips orange zest

1 pound shallots (about 10), halved

if large

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Season meat with salt and pepper. In batches, cook until brown on all sides, about 12 minutes per batch. Transfer browned meat to a platter.

2. Return meat to pot. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add flour and cook, stirring, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, bay leaf, orange zest and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil. Cover, transfer to oven and cook 45 minutes. Remove from oven and stir in shallots. Return to oven and cook until meat and shallots are tender, about 45 minutes.

Nutritional information per serving: 494 calories, 25 grams fat, 30 grams carbohydrates, 40 grams protein, 4 grams fiber and 46 percent of calories from fat.

Spiced tomato soup

Serves 4

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

Coarse salt and ground pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

4 cups whole roasted tomatoes (see above)

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Fresh cilantro leaves and red-pepper flakes,

for serving

1. In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 12 minutes.

2. Add cumin and coriander; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, sugar and 1 cup water and cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes.

3. In batches, purée soup in a blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids). Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Stir in butter and season with salt and pepper. Serve soup with cilantro and red-pepper flakes.

Nutritional information per serving: 162 calories, 10 grams fat, 17 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 5 grams fiber and 56 percent of calories from fat.

Everyday Food magazine offers quick, healthy solutions for everyday meals -- from the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living.

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