UC Davis Today

  • Two hands holding two tomatoes

    UC Davis’ signature organic roasted tomato sauce — served to thousands in our dining halls — begins right here.

  • Aerial view of Russell Ranch fields

    Roma tomatoes grow at the campus’s Russell Ranch Agricultural Facility, where they help researchers study farming in a Mediterranean climate.

  • Three workers hand picking tomatoes

    When the tomatoes themselves say they’re ripe and ready, they are handpicked.

  • Bins of ripe, red tomatoes

    Over two weeks, 10,000 pounds arrive at the Culinary Support Center on campus for processing.

  • One hand reaches to offer a tomato to another hand

    They help make up the 23 percent of food that Dining Services buys from local and sustainable growers and producers.

  • A man in a chef's coat reaches to turn on a machine filled with tomatoes.

    Chef Bob Walden gets a batch of tomatoes ready for a bubbly bath.

  • A closeup of tomatoes floating in water

    The tomatoes are clean now.

  • A chef standing in front of large stainless steel ovens where tomatoes are roasting

    Next up … a giant oven at 450 degrees.

  • Closeup of stacked trays of roasted tomatoes in the oven.

    Racks of trays turn slowly for up to an hour.

  • A chef and male cook with a tray of roasted tomatoes

    Chef, right, and Arnulfo Herrera, a cook, show off the roasted goodness.

  • A closeup of the tray of roasted tomatoes

    The tomatoes have burst open. They’ve released their natural juices and sugars.

  • The cook and another worker filling plastic bags with tomato puree.

    After the tomatoes are pureed, Herrera helps package the liquid.

  • Pitchers of wine and olive oil with garlic and basil around them

    The kitchen mixes some 4,400 pounds of roasted tomatoes with basil, olive oil, garlic and red wine to make 700 gallons of sauce.

  • Worker handling food racks in a cold food bank.

    That sauce and 5,600 pounds of the puree — for later sauce making — are stored and frozen.

  • A big white bowl of pasta with tomato sauce

    Over the year, students enjoy about 20 servings each in a variety of menu items.

[Editor’s note: This story was first published in August 2014.]

Saucy and sustainable

Pasta sauce for student meals

Trays of roma tomatoes in a cart in a kitchen

Evelyn Padilla/UC Davis
(43 sec)

One California, One UC Davis

By Julia Ann Easley

Our recipe’s quantities for turning our homegrown tomatoes into sauce might surprise you: 4,400 pounds of tomatoes, 343 pounds of garlic, 35 pounds of basil — and volumes of olive oil and red wine (those amounts are known only to the chef).

At UC Davis, we handpick ripe roma tomatoes and harvest fragrant basil from our own fields to make the signature organic roasted tomato sauce served to thousands at our student dining halls.  

The tomatoes come from our 300-acre Russell Ranch Agricultural Facility, where researchers study farming in a Mediterranean climate. The basil grows on the Student Farm, where students learn about sustainable agriculture.  

The sauce exemplifies how UC Davis Dining Services is committed to sustainable practices. The tomatoes, basil and other ingredients help make up the 23 percent of the food that Dining Services buys from local and sustainable growers and producers.

“Using the Russell Ranch tomatoes and other produce from the Student Farm brings UC Davis students the freshest and most local organic produce while showcasing the sustainable agriculture research on campus,” says Chef Bob Walden who oversees the Culinary Support Center on campus.

Over two weeks in August, Dining Services processes about 10,000 pounds of tomatoes. This year, the kitchen made 700 gallons of roasted tomato sauce to serve in the fall and froze 5,600 pounds of roasted tomatoes to make more sauce in December.

The signature sauce, which supplies dining commons needs through June, is used in pasta, pizza and, as Chef says, “a little bit in everything.”

Julia Ann Easley of Strategic Communications writes about student affairs, undergraduate education and more.

Photos, including the cover photo, in the slideshow are mostly by Gregory Urquiaga of Strategic Communications, and a few are by Julia Ann Easley or courtesy of UC Davis’ Russell Ranch.

UC Davis is growing California

At UC Davis, we and our partners are nourishing our state with food, economic activity and better health, playing a key part in the state’s role as the top national agricultural producer for more than 50 years. UC Davis is participating in UC’s Global Food Initiative launched by UC President Janet Napolitano, harnessing the collective power of UC to help feed the world and steer it on the path to sustainability.

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