In this quick sauce, hot olive oil and salt are added to diced fresh tomatoes and herbs. Be sure to do this just before tossing with cooked pasta, since the scalding oil releases the flavor of the herbs, and the salt can draw too much liquid from the tomatoes if added too soon. A raw sauce is best paired with spaghetti or spaghettini; thicker, heavier pasta shapes are not a good match.
Yields 3 to 4 cups, enough for 1 lb. dried pasta
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3 lb. ripe tomatoes, cored
2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh basil
2 tsp. finely chopped fresh oregano
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt
Cut a 1/4-inch slice from the tops of the tomatoes. Peel the tomatoes with a vegetable peeler, using a zig-zag motion, halve them crosswise, and remove and discard the seeds. Cut the tomatoes into 1/4-inch dice and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add the basil and oregano.
Just before serving, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a 1-quart saucepan until shimmering hot (but not smoking); pour over the tomato mixture, add 2 tsp. salt, and mix well. Toss with cooked pasta and serve.
Pesto and raw tomatoes are a fresh, bright combination. In a food processor, pulse 2 cups loosely packed basil, 6 Tbs. pine nuts, 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, and 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt until a paste forms. After pouring the hot oil over the tomatoes, mix in the pesto, and then toss with pasta.
Roasted eggplant adds rich, smoky flavor that’s balanced by the freshness of mint. Prick a 1- to 1-1/4-lb. eggplant in a few places, then roast it on a grill, over a gas stove burner, or under a broiler until tender, about 25 minutes. Remove the charred skin and cut the eggplant into 1/2-inch dice. After tossing the pasta with the raw tomato sauce, add the eggplant and 1 Tbs. chopped fresh mint and toss again.
A classic Neapolitan rendition includes diced mozzarella, ideally made from buffalo milk. Add 1 lb. 1/4-inch-diced fresh mozzarella (3 cups) after tossing the pasta with the raw tomato sauce. Toss again and cover the bowl for 30 seconds to soften the cheese before serving. (It’s best to drain the pasta when it‘s just slightly underdone so it won’t overcook when you cover it.)
Roasted peppers provide sweetness. Roast 3 mixed red and yellow bell peppers on a grill, over a gas stove burner, or under a broiler until charred all over; put them in a bowl and cover with plastic. Let stand at least 5 minutes, then peel, seed, and cut the peppers into narrow strips about 1-1/2 inches long. After tossing the pasta with the raw tomato sauce, add the peppers and 1-1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme.
Capers add a briny note. Add 3 Tbs. nonpareil (small) capers to the raw tomatoes and herbs before pouring in the hot oil. Use capers preserved in salt if you can get them, but make sure to rinse all the salt away and then soak them in cold water for about 15 minutes before using them.
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