INGREDIENTS
by Nigel Slater

Roasting the tomatoes first gives this quick tomato sauce a smoky edge. Stir through pasta with a handful of olives.

This meal, if served as three portions, provides 164kcal, 3g protein, 16g carbohydrate (of which 16g sugars), 9g fat (of which 1.5g saturates), 5g fibre and 0.2g salt per portion.

Main course

Buyer's guide

So often thought of as a summer vegetable fruit, tomatoes actually improve as the summer progresses, so tomatoes bought at the beginning of autumn will have a most intense flavour. The flavour depends largely upon the variety and how the fruit has been grown and ripened: some cheap imported tomatoes are grown under polytunnels, picked under-ripe, then artificially ripened with ethylene gas, a plant hormone. Sun-warmed tomatoes picked straight from the vine are arguably the ideal way to enjoy tomatoes. Tomatoes are available to buy on and off the vine from supermarkets and farmers' markets.

When choosing tomatoes, pick them up, feel them and smell them. Choose tomatoes that feel heavy for their size; they are more likely to be bursting with juices. Tomatoes with no smell will probably have no flavour, so opt for those with a pleasant aroma (although the aroma released by tomatoes on the vine are usually due more to the vine than the tomatoes themselves).

Sun-dried tomatoes are available from some supermarkets and Italian delicatessens.

Storage

Get more flavour from tomatoes by removing the plastic packaging and leaving them in a fruit bowl in a sunny spot to 'breathe' and ripen. Never put them in the fridge as this will diminish their flavour and damage their texture. Tomatoes do not withstand freezing very well. Use under-ripe, green tomatoes for making chutney and over-ripe tomatoes to make soups or sauces - these can then be frozen for up to six months.

Preparation

Tomatoes marry well with all sorts of other flavours. High in glutamic acid, which creates the so-called fifth taste 'umami' (loosely translated as 'savoury'), they enhance meat and fish dishes. Garlic and onion add to its deeply savoury nature while basil, thyme, oregano and mint all work their own aromatic magic. Peppers, aubergines and potatoes hail from the same family as the tomato and complement each other well.

For maximum flavour, it's better to leave both the skin and the seeds and surrounding jelly intact, as this is where much of the flavour is stored. If cooking them, use the whole lot and then sieve out the skin and pips after cooking.

Some recipes call for skinned and de-seeded tomatoes. To prepare tomatoes in this way, use a sharp knife to make a small cross in the bottom of each tomato, place in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for 15-30 seconds, drain and refresh in cold water. Use you fingers to peel away the skin (it should pull away easily) then quarter the tomatoes and push out the seeds.

An easy way to improve indifferent tomatoes is to oven-dry them. Halve the tomatoes, sprinkle with salt, sugar and pepper and dry them in a low oven (100C/200F/Gas ½) for 2-4 hours to intensify the flavour. Turn the oven off and leave the tomatoes overnight.