Recipe Corner: Tomato Sauce With Tomatoes

Is there a technical name for cooking the same ingredient to different degrees of doneness in a single dish? Like shaved raw fennel salad with caramelized fennel? This sauce is like that, only lazier. It goes well with ravioli. I grew up making a much more elaborate ravioli sauce, but usually when I am cooking ravioli, it is because I am too tired to think very hard about dinner.


Tomatoes: small or medium-sized. Half a pound of them, or a pound, whatever is in the fridge.

Olive oil.



Stainless steel saucepan, preferably a wide one.

A heatproof silicone spatula is nice, but a wooden spoon works fine too.

1. Put a big pot of salted water on to boil for the ravioli.

2. Wash the tomatoes and line them up by the cutting board, from least prepossessing to most. Chop the least prepossessing tomato into fine bits.

3. Put the stainless steel pan on the most powerful available burner, pour a generous layer of olive oil into the bottom of it, and turn the burner on high.

4. When the oil is hot, throw the chopped tomato into the pan, stir it a little, salt it lightly, and leave it there to sizzle. Meanwhile, chop the second-least prepossessing tomato.

5. When the first tomato starts foaming and turning brown and sticking to the pan, throw in the second tomato, stirring and scraping it around till the first tomato comes unstuck. Go chop the third tomato.

6. Use the third tomato to get the browned remains of the first and second tomatoes unstuck. Repeat, using each new tomato to deglaze the pan, till you get to the final tomato, which should be the most flavorful and attractive one. As soon you stir that one in and scrape the pot, turn off the heat, so it still tastes like a fresh tomato. Add a little salt if it needs it.

7. Cook the ravioli in the now-boiling water. Serve with the tomato-on-tomato sauce.

It is certainly possible to throw in some fresh basil or something at the end, too, and to serve the sauce with homemade pasta scraps. It is also possible to brown some sausage in the pan, as step negative-one, and then take out the sausage and deglaze the sausage-remains with the first tomato, which was what I was doing when I stumbled on the whole serial-tomato approach in the first place. But if you are in a hurry, and the ravioli are good, the point is that you can also do none of these extra things.