Spaghetti with Raw Tomatoes

Summers in Italy can be extremely hot, and many people prefer to eat simple food, and often a one-dish meal, in order not to have to spend too much time in the kitchen. However, they still want something tasty, appetizing, and refreshing. This Italian summer dish of spaghetti with raw tomatoes, called spaghetti al pomodoro crudo, is ideal for this purpose. This recipe is simple, casual, quick to prepare, and works perfectly as a light lunch or supper.–Editors of Phaidon Press

LC Summertime...and the Cooking is Easy Note

Although the title of the book implies that this is an actual recipe, it’s actually something much less—and, at the same time, much more. It’s a basic blueprint, a lesson in summer simplicity, that grants you autorizzazione to make it your own. Love garlic? Sliver the cloves rather than leave them whole to ensure a more pronounced oomph. Don’t have basil? Maybe you don’t need it. The only requirement is that your rendition demands minimal effort. After all, it’s summer. And it goes without saying—in Italian or any language—that this ought to be made only with proper pomodoros, maybe even heirlooms. And preferably from the greenmarket. None of this hothouse business or you’ll be disappointed. Trust us.

Spaghetti with Raw Tomatoes Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 5 M
  • 20 M
  • Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound 2 ounces ripe vine tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 10 leaves fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 12 ounces spaghetti
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  • 1. Place the tomatoes in a large salad bowl, add the oil, basil, and garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Toss gently, cover, and set aside in a cool place. Then forget about them for about 30 minutes or so to let the flavors mingle.
  • 2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions, until it is tender but al dente, or firm to the bite. Drain the spaghetti.
  • 3. Remove and discard the garlic from the raw tomato sauce. Add the pasta to the sauce, toss, and serve immediately.
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Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Julie Dreyfoos

Aug 23, 2010

Light, fresh, and simple to make. This is perfect on a hot summer day for a quick and easy dinner. I used store-bought clusters of vine-ripened tomatoes for this dish, which gave a good, sweet tomato flavor. I also shaved a touch of Romano Cheese on top to lend it a little of that nutty flavor. I’ll be keeping my eyes open for heirloom tomatoes to make this again this summer. TIP: Make sure to use good-quality olive oil.

Testers Choice
Reid N.

Aug 23, 2010

I initially selected this recipe because I needed something quick and easy to prepare for a weekend dinner. I didn’t have much time to cook, nor did I have time to waste in a grocery store. This recipe is so simple to throw together and requires very little cooking. I could almost say that you’re not really cooking because you’re just throwing noodles in a pot of boiling water then draining them! I loved the flavor of the fresh tomatoes and basil. This was simple enough, and tasty enough, that I’d make this dish over and over again. Next time, I might add shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top, or maybe some fresh mozzarella as a mix-in.

Testers Choice
Pat Francis

Aug 23, 2010

This is a fairly simple dish with good flavor. All of the ingredients came through in their own way, like the garlic, which was present but very much in the background. The ingredient amounts were in proportion, though I think I might cut back a little on olive oil next time. I’m not sure if I’d go through the effort to peel the tomatoes again, as I can live with tomato skin in my food. It was lovely, though, to eat pure, fresh tomatoes with no skin or seeds, so the effort did pay off. Combining the hot pasta with the cool tomatoes (which I had to refrigerate to keep cool in the hot weather) yielded a final dish that was lukewarm, which my husband didn’t mind but I found a little odd. Next time, I’ll avoid the refrigerator, even when room temperature is hot.

Testers Choice
Carol Anne Grady

Aug 23, 2010

This is a great midweek meal, taking little time to prepare but delivering a light, satisfying dinner. I was concerned that the amount of tomato mixture was too little when compared to the pasta, but the sauce coats the pasta rather than drowns it, and the basil and garlic come through delicately against the sharp tomatoes. While it’s true that the flavours are somewhat subtle, the proportions are just right in the end. I’d never have thought of using raw tomatoes in a sauce, but in this recipe it works perfectly.

Testers Choice
Joan Osborne

Aug 23, 2010

This is a quick put-together for an easy weeknight meal. I’ve had raw tomato sauce before and enjoyed it very much, as I did this one. The only thing I’d do differently next time is to cut the garlic cloves in half to add a bit more garlic essence to the tomatoes. Just adding them whole didn’t seem to lend much garlicky flavor to the dish. I was skeptical about the small amount of tomato to the amount of spaghetti, but it worked out well. We only got three servings instead of four, though (good thing hubby isn’t much of a spaghetti eater).

Testers Choice
Fran Brennan

Aug 23, 2010

This dish was like summer in a bowl, delicious and quite easy to put together (although I have to admit that I generally hate to peel tomatoes). In the future, though, I might at least cut the garlic cloves in half, and possibly add a few more cloves, to really infuse the sauce with the essence of garlic. I served it with a sprinkling of sea salt and some freshly grated Parmesan and found it a perfect summer meal. My husband liked it very much, but loved it much more after he dumped his roasted vegetables on top of it.

Testers Choice
Jennifer V.

Aug 23, 2010

Another recipe in which success lies in the ingredients you use. Make sure you use the best you can afford, as there are so few components to this dish that each ingredient really does shine through. The only heat required is when cooking the pasta, making this an ideal recipe to quickly whip up for a summer meal. You may be tempted to gild the lily with some cheese or balsamic vinegar, but this dish really doesn’t need it.

Testers Choice
Jeremy Schweitzer

Aug 23, 2010

This simple and delicious recipe is nearly identical to one I’ve been making for a while, but the subtle differences—adding whole garlic cloves and then fishing them out later—are what make this recipe a Testers’ Choice for me. This dish definitely relies on outstanding tomatoes, so if you don’t or can’t grow your own, make sure to pick up some really good ones at a farmers market or store. While the recipe was delicious as-is, I’ve made it twice now and the second time I tried a few changes that I prefer. I thought the original was a little too heavy on the oil and that there wasn’t enough “sauce,” so I doubled the tomatoes, cut the oil in half, and chiffonaded the basil. It was close to perfection for me. I’d suggest following the recipe exactly the first time around and then playing with the proportions to determine what works best for you. The simplicity of the recipe calls out for variation, whether adding some fresh, local mozzarella, or a dusting of lemon zest and white beans to pump up the flavor. Either way, an excellent dish.

Testers Choice
Linda Pacchiano

Aug 23, 2010

This dish is perfect for a summer supper, especially when locally grown tomatoes are available. I grow my own "Jersey" tomatoes, have basil in my herb garden, and with pasta, garlic, and good olive oil always in the pantry, I didn't have to go to the stores. The dish is so simple to prepare, and yet the flavors come together beautifully. This recipe could be made with a variety of pasta—linguine, penne, almost anything would work. Better yet, make homemade pasta and I'm certain the dish will be even more wonderful. I really have no changes to suggest other than maybe to slice the garlic to make its flavor is a bit more prominent.

Testers Choice
Melissa Maedgen

Aug 23, 2010

Making this pasta sauce didn’t really feel like testing a recipe at all because my own version of this is something that I make a few times a week every summer when I have tomatoes in the garden. You do need to peel the tomatoes, at least if you want to serve the sauce over a long pasta shape, like spaghetti, as suggested here. If you don’t peel the tomatoes, they will stay very chunky. They will work over a short pasta, like penne, but not so well over long strands. The good news is that it doesn’t take long at all to peel them. The most efficient thing to do is to use the same pot and water (before adding salt) that you will later use to boil the pasta. The only thing I’d change when making this recipe is the treatment of the garlic. I like to cut a clove lengthwise, and rub the cut halves on the bowl that I use to mix the sauce. If you do this, it’s not necessary to let the sauce sit for 30 minutes. You can just let it sit for the time it takes to boil the pasta. Tomatoes are the real star here, not garlic.

Testers Choice
Dan Kraan

Aug 23, 2010

As with any recipe that uses raw ingredients, they must be at the peak of freshness to really shine. The garden freshness of ripened vine tomatoes, along with the fresh basil and garlic, are just made to go together. Olive oil, perhaps one with a bit of a peppery finish, brings the whole, simple preparation to an irresistible finish. Don’t even think about using cheese on this! If you want to take this from great to spectacular, try using a variety of coloured heirloom tomatoes. I find it amusing that the author calls for 1 pound, 2 ounces of tomatoes. Why not say “3 to 4 medium tomatoes, at least 1 pound”? Merely adding two garlic cloves to the tomato mixture isn’t going to provide much of a mingle. For garlic lovers, just mince the cloves and toss with the tomato mixture before resting in a cool place. TIP: I found that 10 leaves of basil equaled about 1/4 cup, tightly packed.

Testers Choice
Anne Leslie

Aug 23, 2010

This recipe was great—a very light and refreshing option to traditional heavy red sauce on spaghetti. Making the sauce takes about as long as it does to boil the water for pasta! The raw tomatoes would be great without peeling them, as long as the skin isn’t too tough. This dish was a wonderful way to use the cherry tomatoes freshly picked from my garden.


Comments
Comments
  1. Susan says:

    I love uncooked pasta sauces, especially this time of year. This is like one that I throw together, the only difference being that if my garlic is good garlic, I minced it and leave it in there. I’ve gotten so I sometimes cut out that little core in the middle of a garlic clove, if it’s a bit on the too strong side.

    • David Leite says:

      Susan, that’s a good tip for everyone to pay attention to: cut out the small green germ that is sometimes found in the middle of a garlic clove. That’s a result of the plant doing what plants do: grow. But that germ is bitter so I always make sure to remove it when I’m using garlic.

  2. Lauralee Hensley says:

    I bet if you had olive oil that had a few cloves of garlic that have been in the bottle with the oil for awhile you could eliminate the garlic in the recipe since the oil would already have some of the flavor steeped in it.

    • David Leite says:

      Lauralee, you have to be very careful with garlic in olive oil. The oil creates an anaerobic environment (meaning without air, as opposed to aerobic). It’s the perfect condition for bacteria to grow—specifically botulism. So before any reader makes an infused oil, please research the best way of doing so. We want you to be safe.

  3. marcella says:

    This is summer in a bowl :)

    I also love to cook them very briefly, just as long as it takes for the pasta to get ready. I find they become ever sweeter, especially if you take the time to sweat a chopped onion before adding the tomatoes. I know it’s not exactly raw, this way, but it’s also quite different from long-simmered sauces made with canned tomatoes. I don’t even need to add salt (or sugar, for all that matters :)

    bt,w if you happen to have some oblong, san-marzano-style tomatoes on hand, they are even better that vine ones. In fact it’s what we use in Italy to make salsa.

    • David Leite says:

      Marcella, I sometimes cooked tomatoes very briefly in an onion-garlic mixture. It’s quick, easy, and does heighten the sweetness of the fruit. And in my cookbook I recommend San Manzano tomatoes, also known as Roma tomatoes. I think they’re some of the finest for sauces.

  4. Chris Taylor says:

    Great summer dish. Tomatoes were picked straight from my garden. The black variety was so delicious.

  5. RisaG says:

    I love pasta with a raw sauce but I can’t get my family into it. They think it is too chunky. Their loss. Sometimes I make similar for lunch when they aren’t around.

    • David Leite says:

      RisaG, I understand their sentiment. What you don’t see in the video for the recipe is that there are three sizes of tomatoes chunks: large (for the camera), small (for body and texture), and squished by hand (for smoothness). if your family doesn’t like chunky sauce, just go in there and squish three-quarters of it by hand. It’ll smooth it out for them but still leave a little bit for presentation.

  6. I’ve made a similar sauce for the past thirty summers—there are two differences in mine: fresh tarragon instead of basil, minced shallot instead of garlic.

  7. Tonie says:

    I minced the garlic and left it in and also grated some parmesan over the dish. It was yummy light and easy for a weekend meal. Thanks.

  8. Rick Casner says:

    There are no locally grown, ripe tomatoes around Seattle this year. At least none that I can grow or find. We’ve taken to cutting pictures of tomatoes out of magazines, then snipping those into smaller bits to scatter over salads and such. I’ll agree and disagree with some of your testers… My splotch-stained recipe minces the garlic, adds some chopped yellow pepper, decisively adds a cup of chopped fresh mozzarella (usually plain but smoked is interesting)and finally a tablespoon of balsamic for a little bite.

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