I cannot remember which of my Italian friends taught me to make a “sugo crudo al pomodoro” but it was most certainly on a warm summer’s day. It’s magic is in the mixture of freshly sliced tomatoes shimmering in a small pool of olive oil, perfumed by leaves of fresh basil. Given a moment to marinate, these ingredients marry as it were — the tomatoes taking on the flavor of basil and the basil melting into the juices of the fresh tomatoes.
This combination of ingredients should be made on a day when the bright sunshine warrants staying away from the stove. It’s name already reveals that it involves no cooking whatsoever. Stir it through pasta, pour it over fresh bread or put it in a jar to chill until it’s time for a food gathering of some kind or other. Below an explanation for how I make my raw tomato summer pasta sauce.
- 175 grams bright orange cherry tomatoes
- 175 grams pear-shaped cherry tomatoes
- 400 ml crushed San Marzano or plum tomatoes
- 1/2 bunch of fresh basil
- 75 ml extra virgin olive oil
- one teaspoon of fleur de sel sea salt flakes
- 300 grams short shaped pasta
Open the can of crushed tomatoes (making sure that they are the kind that have no flavor additives) and pour them into a bowl. Add a good pinch of sea salt flakes and a good slug of your very best extra virgin olive oil. Pick the leaves of half a bunch of basil, which should be equal to a nice, full handful. Tear the basil and toss it into the bowl of crushed tomato.
Wash the cherry tomatoes in cold fresh water and slice each of them into four to six segments, depending on their size. Stir the fresh tomatoes through the crushed tomato-basil mixture, making sure to catch all the fresh cherry tomato juices that cover the cutting board during the process. Stir the ingredients and cover the bowl with a plate. Allow the flavors to mingle at least a half an hour and up to a two hours.
Fill a pot with water and add enough sea salt for it to taste just like the ocean. Bring the water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook the pasta, giving it a stir every once and a while until it is al dente (which means that it still holds its shape and texture). Drain the pasta in a colander and rinse it under cold water for a moment until it is room temperature. Toss the half the salsa cruda sauce through the pasta and bring the rest of the tomato sauce to the table.
Enjoy the easiest and most flavorful of summer tomato sauces ever as is. The flavor mix created in the process of the marinade, need no further embellishment. That being said, some slivers of sliced garlic and dried red pepper give the sauce a Southern Italian edge. I sometimes add lemon zest, simply because I love citrus. When I miss Naples, I toss in some purple Gaeta (or Kalamata) olives too!
Sugo crudo keeps well in the refrigerator for two days. Although I am not a big fan of cold pasta salad, if you want to take this pasta to the beach, cook the pasta al dente and drain and rinse as explained above. Stir the sauce in with the pasta and chill it for an hour before packing it into a picnic basket.