Sunday, September 16

Recipe: No-Cook Fresh Tomato Pasta Sauce with Basil, Capers, and Kalamata Olives

My version of the simple, flavorful pasta sauce made with chopped raw tomatoes and uncooked seasonings that is eaten in country houses all over Italy.

A hint of autumn may be in the air, and apple, pear, and pumpkin recipes are popping up all over place, but some of us gardeners are still hoping for a little more summer and a lot more vine-ripened tomatoes (and peppers and eggplant).

Did you know that tomato plants won't set fruit if the daytime high temperatures are above 90 degrees? The heat makes the pollen inside the blossoms tacky and non-viable, preventing pollination. I didn't learn that until last year (thanks, Cynthia!). Fog, smog, high humidity, dusty conditions, and nighttime temperatures below 55 degrees can also make tomato blossoms drop off instead of turn into fruit. It's a wonder some of us harvest any tomatoes at all.

But now that the months of devastating heat and drought have thankfully come to an end (we're actually getting some rain!), the poor tomato plants in my kitchen garden are heaving a big sigh of relief and finally loading themselves up with green fruit.

The same thing happened last year with six late-planted Romas, from which I harvested about 60 pounds of fat green tomatoes in October. Thankfully it's easy to ripen green tomatoes indoors, and of course there's always my popular Super Simple, No Sugar, Salsa-Like Green Tomato Relish, but nothing tastes as good as vine-ripened.

One of my favorite ways to celebrate the amazing flavor of homegrown tomatoes is in a simple, raw tomato pasta sauce. For those of us still waiting for the bulk of our summer bounty, here's to a ripe and juicy start to fall!

Recipe below. . .

Italian Countryside No-Cook Fresh Tomato Pasta Sauce
Makes 4 servings - Adapted from The Splendid Table

This quick and easy sauce tastes best if allowed to sit at room temperature for several hours before serving. If you're the kind of person who can't pass by a bowl of tomatoes and herbs without having a little sample (ahem) you may want to double the recipe (or hide the spoon).

I've been making fresh tomato pasta sauce for years, but I recently learned a neat trick from Lynne Rossetto Kasper of The Splendid Table. She said to make your pasta with raw tomato sauce taste lustier (I love the thought of pasta tasting lusty), spoon off some of the tomato sauce juice and toss it with the hot, drained pasta over medium-low heat until absorbed. Wow.

This recipe is made for interpretation; simply leave out or add whatever herbs or other ingredients you like or have on hand. I love Greek kalamata olives so I tossed them in; other olives would be nice too. Sometimes I skip the pasta altogether and just sop up the sauce with a hunk of warm crusty bread. (These easy Four Hour Parisian Daily Baguettes taste great and are so handy to have on hand in the freezer.)

As always, I urge you to seek out local and organic ingredients; they really do make a difference.

3 pounds juicy, vine-ripened tomatoes, preferably heirlooms, a mixture of varieties if desired, cut into 1/4-inch dice (no need to peel or seed)
3 Tablespoons good extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup roughly chopped kalamata olives (or your favorite olives)
2 Tablespoons small capers, roughly chopped (I don't rinse them)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound linguine, spaghetti, penne or fusilli
1/2 to 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese (optional)

In a large bowl, stir together the tomatoes, olive oil, kalamata olives, capers, basil, Greek oregano, garlic, salt, and several grinds of black pepper. Let stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for several hours, or at least while you cook the pasta.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring often, until slightly undercooked. Drain in a colander.

Spoon off some of the tomato sauce juice and put it into the empty pasta pot, then set it over medium-low heat, add the drained pasta, and toss until the juices are absorbed. Add the pasta to the bowl of sauce and toss to combine.

Season to taste and serve, passing the freshly grated cheese at the table. Hunks of warm crusty bread to sop up the sauce are optional.

More Farmgirl Fare recipes that celebrate garden fresh tomatoes:
Easy Homemade Tomato Vegetable Juice (like V8 but better)
Greek Salad Pitas with Baby Spinach and Quick Kalamata Olive Tapenade
Greek Style Panzanella Salad
Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad (Fattoush)
Savory Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil Pesto Pie with an Easy Cheesy Biscuit Crust
Quick & Easy Gazpacho (chilled tomato vegetable soup)

Still hungry? You'll find links to all my sweet and savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index.

©, where autumn is my favorite season on the farm (and you know I'm not a fan of hot weather), but in the name of vine-ripened tomatoes, even I'm hoping it won't get down to 39 degrees on Tuesday night as predicted.


  1. Mamma mia - I'm heading to my local farmer's market for heirlooms and making this tonight. Thanks!

  2. I love this easy pasta sauce! Great tip on adding some juice to the hot pasta. I love to leave the capers whole and fry them before adding them to the sauce. Try it sometime. You'll be amazed.
    I'm so glad your summer heat has abated. Hope you are well.

  3. I have been following your blog for some years and only occasionally comment even though I do read it all. I wanted to say this time that you are an inspiration, especially after this tough summer of heat and drought. A lovely recipe with thoughts about what to do about tomatoes and green ones and all that. This kind of recipe is exactly the sort of thing I love to "cook" (if you include the pasta!)

    You have lots of fans!

  4. This looks lovely. I covered my tomato plants (with fat green tomatoes on them) last night when they called for frost, but I'm hoping that I'll get some ripening on the vine as it's supposed to stay warm the rest of the week. Hopefully I'll get some basil in the farm share-I used all mine up making pesto!

    Do you think green olives could work as well?

    1. I think green olives would probably taste great!

  5. Do you think I could freeze this raw tomato sauce and use it later defrosted, thanks for your reply.

    1. Hi Nicole,
      I'm not sure how well the sauce would freeze since the tomatoes aren't cooked at all. I think the texture would be compromised. You can freeze whole tomatoes without processing them first, but they need to be used in sauce, stews, etc. What you could do is try freezing a little as a test and see how it comes out. :)

  6. This is really, really good. I'm eating my dish as I type this out. I can already tell this will be an excellent dish in the summer time, light and filling.


December 2015 update: Hi! For some reason I can't figure out, Blogger hasn't been letting me leave comments on my own blog (!) for the last several months, so I've been unable to respond to your comments and questions. My apologies for any inconvenience! You're always welcome to email me: farmgirlfare AT gmail DOT com.

Hi! Thanks for visiting Farmgirl Fare and taking the time to write. While I'm not always able to reply to every comment, I receive and enjoy reading them all.

Your feedback is greatly appreciated, and I especially love hearing about your experiences with my recipes. Comments on older posts are always welcome!

Please note that I moderate comments, so if I'm away from the computer it may be a while before yours appears.

I try my best to answer all questions, though sometimes it takes me a few days. And sometimes, I'm sorry to say, they fall through the cracks, and for that I sincerely apologize.

I look forward to hearing from you and hope you enjoy your e-visits to our farm!