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Tomato Sauce

Irma R., a novice home cook, turns to F&W's Tina Ujlaki with her kitchen questions. This month, they discuss the way to make an amazing tomato sauce with raw tomatoes.

Question

Dear Tina,
Thanks! I could live on pasta and tomatoes. But my uncooked sauces always end up tasting like chunky salad dressing. Any suggestions?
Yours truly, Irma

Answer

Dear Irma,
At home, we have a raw-tomato sauce once a week in summer—on pasta, fish, arugula, beans, chicken breasts, fresh mozzarella or grilled meats. The recipe is based on one from Michael Romano at Union Square Cafe in New York City that we featured in F&W years ago.

Cut 1 pound of tomatoes, preferably heirlooms, into 1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces. In a bowl, toss them with 1/2 teaspoon of coarse salt and let stand for 10 minutes. Add 12 torn basil leaves, 2 lightly crushed garlic cloves (remember to pick them out before serving) and 1/3 cup of extra-virgin olive oil. Set aside for at least 1 hour and up to 8.

It's as simple as that. Depending on what you're having the sauce on, you could add fresh mint, oregano, parsley, chopped onion, minced jalapeños, capers, anchovies, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, diced salami or prosciutto or aromatics like lemon or orange zest.

Of course this recipe demands incredible tomatoes. When shopping at a farmers' market, try this: Buy a tomato and taste it—if it's great, buy more. If not, move on. (I do this with apples and pears in the fall too.)
Best, Tina

Published September 2003
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