A treasure trove of roasted garlic; cook cloves ahead of time, store in the freezer

You see, when baked at a moderate temperature for a minimal amount of time, garlic becomes relatively tame — from a dragon-breath perspective — and actually achieves a mild, almost buttery texture and flavor. Homemade spaghetti sauce from scratch fresh tomatoes But until a short while ago, not many home cooks knew just how wonderful these rich and golden morsels were, either as an offering all unto itself when placed in the vicinity of French bread and butter, or as a savory ingredient in dishes ranging from mashed potatoes to stir-fries and vegetable sautes.

Well, like many cooks who have fallen head over heals in love with the process, I’ve worked out some variations on the roasted garlic theme. How to make homemade tomato pasta sauce All of these variations, however, can really be broken into three categories: roasting whole heads, roasting halved heads or roasting individual cloves.

I’m not sure which treatment I prefer; they produce considerably different results, gastronomically speaking. Homemade pasta tomato sauce When the head is roasted intact, the cloves have the most mild and tender disposition. How to make easy homemade pasta sauce Likewise, if you halve the head by cutting it at its plumpest circumference, plop the cut sides down onto a puddle of olive oil and roast until a firm nudge on your part confirms the cloves are thoroughly tender. Homemade pasta sauce easy The result will still be a fairly sweet-natured product.

But my main focus today is on that third approach: roasting individual peeled cloves of garlic, which is an entirely different animal. Homemade tomato pasta sauce with fresh tomatoes Since each individual clove is exposed to the oven environment and responds by producing a golden, crusty glow, the end result is a richer, more intense eating and cooking experience.

It began with a 3-pound bag of Christopher Ranch peeled garlic cloves. Healthy homemade pasta sauce This Gilroy, California-based grower is the nation’s largest fresh garlic producer, and I am a fan of their consistently good quality garlic offerings — especially those oversized, your-eyes-are-bigger-than-your-stomach bags of fresh, peeled garlic cloves. Homemade mushroom sauce for pasta They are extremely convenient to have around. Quick homemade pasta sauce At least in my garlic-loving world.

I’m usually able to work my way through the cloves in a reasonable amount of time. Homemade tomato pasta sauce recipe But this week, the “use by” date was looming and I had barely made a dent. Homemade pasta sauce simple Not wanting to waste a single clove, I decided that roasting and freezing the whole batch was the perfect solution.

Once roasted, I broke out two cups worth to concoct a zesty puree that freezes very well and is the basis for many of my favorite recipes, including salad dressings, mashed potatoes, party spreads and pasta sauces. White sauce recipe for pasta easy Since we are heading into the holiday cooking season, having this puree on hand will be greatly appreciated. Homemade pasta sauce from canned tomatoes The rest were tumbled into a freezer bag that I sealed and placed flat on a baking sheet in the freezer. Homemade pasta sauce giada That way the cloves would succumb to the frosty temperature without clinging to one another. Homemade tomato pasta sauce fresh tomatoes Once each clove was individually frozen, the bag could be stored upright.

Mission accomplished. Homemade tomato sauce pasta Having saved the entire batch from ruin, I was feeling pretty smug, knowing that in the weeks and months to come, my freezer would provide a multitude of options for my roasted-garlic approach to cooking.

• A quick and simple garlic bread. Best homemade pasta sauce from scratch Toast slices of your favorite artisan bread, then spread with a puree of roasted garlic cloves and softened butter. Easy homemade spaghetti sauce for canning Spread on the toast, then broil until bubbly and golden brown. Homemade pasta sauce with olive oil Alternate idea: To that garlic and butter puree, stir in some shredded cheese or a dollop of mayonnaise (yes, mayonnaise!) and a splash of Worcestershire sauce.

• Turn regular mayonnaise into roasted garlic aioli by blending a cup of mayonnaise with a dozen cloves of roasted garlic (or a couple tablespoons of roasted garlic puree). Homemade white pasta sauce from scratch Use as a sandwich spread, a dip for artichokes or as a garnish on vegetables.

• Turn basic mashed potatoes into roasted garlic mashed potatoes. Rose sauce for pasta recipe Either leave the cloves whole, slice into slivers, or make a puree with the cloves and stir into the potatoes as you are mashing. Tomato pasta sauce with bacon Either way, it’s delicious!

• Smash some roasted garlic cloves into a saucer of good-quality olive oil and serve as an appetizer for dipping with a good, crusty artisan bread.

• Add some roasted garlic cloves to the pan juices of a juicy steak before serving (with a splash of red wine to dissolve all the cooked-on bits of food).

• Make a delicious flatbread by drizzling the bread with olive oil, then smearing on roasted garlic cloves or roasted garlic puree and topping with Gorgonzola before heating in a 400-degree oven until soft and bubbly.

— Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, an artist and the author of “Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit” and four other cookbooks. Sauce for pasta and meatballs Readers can contact her by email at janrd@proaxis.com or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at janrd.com .