With this recipe, the only thing you have to cook is the pasta. My cousin Edda makes it all summer long. This is the freshest, purest-tasting recipe I have found for a sauce of raw tomatoes and uncooked seasonings. You rub a bowl with garlic, dice up ripe tomatoes, leaving their skin and seeds intact, tear a few leaves of fresh herbs over the tomatoes, twirl in a thread of olive oil and finish with salt and pepper. Nothing could be easier, or taste better. In some country houses, you might find capers and oregano in the bowl, or hot pepper and crushed garlic, or mint or even celery leaves. Everything in this dish is about what the country cook has on hand.

Cook to Cook: Exceptionally good tomatoes and olive oil you want to eat with a spoon are the only requirements for this recipe. Try a variety of tomatoes if possible-the punchy little Sweet 100s or Sun Golds, mellow beefsteaks and maybe one or two sweet yellow or orange ones. Tear the basil with your hands, rather than chopping with a knife. You enjoy more of its fragrance this way.

I discovered a trick for making pasta with raw tomato sauces taste lustier. Slightly undercook the pasta. Drain it. Spoon the juices that raw sauces always throw off into the empty pasta pot. Set it over medium-low heat, add the pasta and toss until the juices are absorbed, then add the pasta to the sauce. Pasta and raw tomato sauce is served at room temperature, never chilled.

Wine Suggestion: A simple Tuscan red like Monte Antico or Santa Cristina's Chianti

Main Ingredients

  • 1 clove garlic, split
  • 2-1/2 to 3 pounds richly flavored tomatoes (if possible, one-third cherry type, one-third mellow-tasting, and one-third low-acid), unpeeled, unseeded, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1-1/2 tightly packed tablespoons fresh basil leaves or other favorite herb, torn
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons fruity extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound fusilli, penne, linguine or spaghetti
  • 6 quarts boiling salted water
  • 1/2 to 1 cup freshly grated aged Pecorino Romano cheese or domestic Fontinella (optional)
Instructions
 
1. Vigorously rub a pasta serving bowl with the garlic. Add the tomatoes, basil, oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Let stand at room temperature while you cook the pasta, or up to several hours.
 
2. Cook the pasta in fiercely boiling water, stirring often, until tender yet firm to the bite. Drain in a colander and turn it into the pasta bowl, tossing all the ingredients together. Taste for seasoning and serve. If you like, pass cheese at the table.

Adapted from The Italian Country Table: Home Cooking from Italy's Farmhouse Kitchens by Lynne Rossetto Kasper (Scribner, 1999). Copyright 1999 by Lynne Rossetto Kasper.