Sun-Cooked Heirloom Tomato Pasta Sauce

It is high summer in Maine. Though the nights are cooling, our days are glorious, green and breezy. Fields and farm stands are bursting with string beans, corn, tomatoes, and melons. Everything is ripe. I was sitting in the grass, brainstorming ideas for dinner and remembered – how could I forget – one of the first meals Malcolm and I ever cooked together. It was his father’s recipe. Pasta sauce made from raw tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil, and vinegar, served over hot pasta to “cook” the sauce; add fresh mozzarella cheese, and you have the most amazing simple summer dinner, a hit with absolutely everyone.

A scathingly brilliant idea: I had just made an oversized mason jar of sun tea, and I wondered if I could apply the same process to vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Allow the ingredients to cook under the sun, flavors mingling, making its own sauce. Is this notion weird or wonderful? Disgusting or divine? We are about to embark on this quirky culinary adventure together to find out!

Sun-Cooked Heirloom Tomato Pasta Sauce


  • 3 misshapen red and yellow heirloom tomatoes
  • 3 purple grape tomatoes
  • 3 medium size, spherical red tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced very thinly
  • a hefty packed 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • 1/4 cup fruity olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper


Gently combine all ingredients in a large bowl or jar, cover and set in the sun for a few (we did five) hours.

To Serve:

We cooked caponetti – very thin spaghetti – just shy of al dente. Drain, but don’t rinse. Toss with sun-cooked sauce and Parmesan shavings.

The result is sort of fantastic. Amazingly great. It tastes like August, bright, clean, and sweet. I thought about family road trips to The Catskill Game Farm and Rhode Island beaches, when my parents would pull the family caravan into a rest area and unpack Italian bread, deli ham and a container of tomatoes marinating in garlic and olive oil, piling it on messy and fragrant. In those days I wished we could just get burgers and Frosties from Wendy’s, like everybody else. But clearly something important was embedded in my brain because dinner tasted like happy expectation and lazy summer. I only wish we could bottle this and keep it to remind us of warmth in bleak February. Winter is coming. But not yet.


Jillian Bedell

Jillian Bedell is a writer and mother living in a farmhouse in Cushing, Maine. She is very good at talking about herself in the third person. She is co-author of Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road.


  1. Catskill Game Farm?!!?!?!!? OMG, I haven’t heard that in over 20 years. I went there on a school field trip nearly every year of elementary school.

    Oh, and the meal sounds great, too – we have a mini-harvest of assorted tomatoes every day lately, so this’ll be easy and fun.

  2. I have been making a a version of this for years but using only fresh tomatoes off the vine! I will certainly try using heirloom tomatoes next time for sure…as a matter of fact I have a big bowl of tomatoes, garlic and olive oil, salt out ‘cookin’g right now!!

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