• Yield: 2 1/2 cups

  • Time: 5 min prep, 10 min cooking, 15 min total

I'm a big fan of cherry tomatoes because you can find reliably flavorful ones even in wintertime. I think the best selection for this sauce is a mix of fruity and sweet orange Sun Golds (my favorite tomato; I plant about a dozen bushes every year) and a basic red cherry. You could make this sauce with chunks of larger tomatoes, too, but only if they're brightly acidic, the way even ho-hum cherry tomatoes tend to be. This sauce is a pleasure simply tossed with penne and a handful of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. But it's also delicious on grilled polenta or grilled fish. My favorite destination for this sauce is this angel hair dish.


  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 tbsp minced, seeded jalapeño, serrano, or other fresh hot chile or pepperoncino

  • Kosher salt

  • 5 cups/800 g ripe cherry tomatoes, stemmed and halved if large

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • 1 tsp lightly packed finely grated lemon zest

  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice, plus more if needed

  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, basil, mint, or a mixture

  • 1 tsp unsalted butter


In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chile and 1/2 tsp salt and cook, stirring often, until soft and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring often, until they begin to burst and release their juice, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds or so, then stir in the lemon zest and juice. Remove the pan from the heat, add the parsley and butter, and swirl the pan to blend them into the sauce. Taste and balance the seasoning with salt and lemon juice if needed. Serve right away.

Storage: This sauce loses its vibrancy after a few hours, so use it as soon as possible after making it.

Quick Change: Add 1 tbsp drained capers or chopped, pitted green olives with the garlic.

Modern Sauces, 150 Recipes for Every Cook, Every Day by Martha Holmberg. Chronicle Books 2012.

Martha Holmberg is the former publisher and editor of Fine Cooking, founding editor of MIX and former food editor of the Oregonian. She is the author of Puff, a James Beard award-nominated cookbook, and Crepes.