Raw Tomato Sauce with Chile Peppers

Tomato sauce made from chopped raw tomatoes, crushed garlic, olive oil, and torn basil leaves is simply the easiest and most elegant dish for a late summer evening. When tomatoes and basil are in season, you almost owe it to them to prepare a dish that lets their freshness shine.

Truly, this is something that you can only enjoy in these parts for two to three weeks of the entire year. I’ve done this sauce with beefsteak tomatoes, plums and heirlooms. Surprisingly, heirlooms are too sour for the sauce, beefsteaks too, um…beefy, but plum and cherry tomatoes are just perfect. I just kissed the tips of my fingers.

That said, this is something I’ve made at least a dozen times and as I contemplated what to do with the nearly thirty tomatoes I received with this week’s CSA delivery, I decided to try something new. I wanted to push the sauce beyond mild and sweet and instead make it bold and hot. The answer was right under my nose…

Yes! Chile peppers also arrived fresh from the farm this week and became the perfect addition. These were relatively high on the heat scale and it’s smart to wear a pair of latex gloves when cleaning any hot pepper. Only having yellow rubber scrubbing gloves, I instead rubbed a little olive oil on my hands, which was also a reminder and good deterrent not to touch my face. Make sure you wash your hands well afterward.

Celery leaves were a last minute addition. I’ve seen them included in raw tomato sauce in Italy (where they love their bitter greens) but I’ve never before tried them. Fortunately for me, I also received celery from the farm and I was able to “Ask Casey” how I could best store it for a few days until my tomatoes were fully ripe. (Organic celery often turns into an inedible rubbery mess within 24 hours.) “Mummify your celery with aluminum foil, it stays fresh for WEEKS. Months, possibly,” she replied. Brilliant, huh? I never would have known.

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  1. Gburg says

    I never make a pasta sauce without some pepper flakes or hot peppers. This is right up my alley.

  2. says

    Fabulous – and so easy. And not only did I get a great recipe out of this post, I got an answer about how to store my organic celery…

  3. says

    Lovely! Those tomatoes look so darn great! There is simply no better tomato or corn than from Jersey! Amen.

    I love the idea of rubbing oil on your hands before cutting peppers. I NEVER thought of that! Ingenious!

  4. says

    I’ve never used celery leaves before in dishes–love the idea of putting them in the sauce. I’m a serrano chile fiend so I’m going to have to give this a try versus tossing in a little cayenne pepper. I add heat to most of my sauces–alfredo, ragu, red, always a little cayenne.

  5. says

    This is fantastic. I love fresno peppers or serranos in sauce. They are bother great candidates depending on which heat level you’re looking for.


  6. says

    George Clooney, Lake Como, summer tomatoes. Who can argue against that combo?

    Been such a sad tomato season this year, I’m reluctant to do anything but Caprese salads with the rare good ones, but this dish does sound like a winner.

  7. says

    I LOVE celery leaves and often cook them up. I’ve not tried them in a raw recipe though. I’ll definitely be giving this a go when we get fresh tomatoes out of the garden this year. Right now, the tomato plants are wee things in the greenhouse.

  8. says

    Great-looking recipe. Coming from the Southwest, I want to second the warning about gloves and not touching your eyes while working with hot chile peppers. I’ve goofed and ended up crying more than once.

  9. Jennifer Margulis says

    This is just the kind of pasta sauce I love to make. I will try it next week! (We’ve got our menus planned for this week already.)