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Raw Tomato Sauce

The sauce develops in the hour or two that it marinates

This is the pasta “sauce” I make in August when just-picked tomatoes in all shapes and colors are piled on our kitchen windowsills — and it is too hot to hang around the stove.

It’s a fast no-cook preparation, but it requires ripe and juicy homegrown tomatoes or heirloom tomatoes from the farmers’ market.

Be sure to have them at room temperature.

The sauce actually develops in the hour or two that it marinates: salt draws the juices from the tomatoes and they become infused with the flavors of basil and garlic. Then all you do is toss piping hot pasta with the tomatoes and enjoy one of the rare treats of the whole year.

Makes 3 to 4 cups — enough to sauce 1 pound of cooked dry pasta


2 pounds ripe summer tomatoes, preferably heirloom varieties in a mix of colors and shapes
3 to 4 plump peeled garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 large basil leaves (about 3 tablespoons shredded)
1/4 teaspoon peperoncino, or more or less to taste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup or more grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or cubed fresh mozzarella


  1. Rinse the tomatoes, drain and wipe dry. Cut out the core and any other hard parts. Working over a big mixing bowl to catch all the juices, cut the tomatoes — cherry tomatoes in half; regular tomatoes into 1-inch chunks — and drop them in the bowl.
  2. Smash the garlic cloves with a chef’s knife and chop into a fine paste. This is easier if you add some of the salt as you chop; mash the garlic bits and salt with the flat side of the knife too. Scatter the garlic paste and the rest of the salt (1/2 teaspoon in all) over the tomatoes and stir gently.
  3. Pile up the basil leaves and slice into thin strips (called chiffonade). Strew these over the tomatoes, then the peperoncino flakes. Pour in the oil, stir and fold to coat the tomatoes and distribute the seasonings.
  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it marinate at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours.
  5. Toss the marinated sauce with freshly cooked and drained pasta. Serve as is or toss in 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. For additional complexity, you could add 1 cup or more cubed fresh mozzarella.

Lidia Bastianich is a best-selling cookbook author, restaurateur, owner of a flourishing food and entertainment business and host of public television's cooking series, Lidia's Italy.

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