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Some of the best tomatoes in the world are found in Mediterranean markets, so it is hardly surprising that it is impossible to imagine Mediterranean food without them. But these “golden apples” were unknown in the Mediterranean until the 16th century, when they were brought from Mexico. In some countries, they were known as “love-apples” because they resembled the heart. Their popularity soon spread and they were cultivated all over the Mediterranean region and incorporated into the cooking of almost every country.

Sun-ripened and full of flavor, tomatoes come in many varieties – beefsteak tomatoes, plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and baby pear-shaped ones. These bright red fruits literally bursting with aroma and flavor, tomatoes are essential ingredients in so many dishes. They are used in so many different ways that it is hard to know where to start. They can be eaten raw, sliced and served with a trickle of extra virgin olive oil and some tom basil leaves. They are the red component in insalata tricolore, partnering white mozzarella and green basil to make up the colors of the Italian flag. Raw ripe tomatoes can be chopped with herbs and garlic to make a fresh-tasting pasta sauce.

How to Choose Tomatoes

Tomatoes are at their best in summer, when they have ripened naturally in the sun. Buy tomatoes on the vine if possible, as they will ripen naturally. Choose your tomatoes according to how you wish to prepare them. Salad tomatoes should be firm and easy to slice. The best tomatoes for cooking are plum tomatoes, which have a superb flavor and hold their shape well. Beefsteak tomatoes are the best for stuffing. Tomatoes will only ripen properly if they are left for long enough on the vine, so try to buy “vine-ripened” varieties. As well as fresh tomatoes, canned and sun-dried tomatoes are invaluable store cupboard items.