Got fresh tomatoes? We’ve got recipes. Here are our top fresh tomato recipes to take advantage of those juicy, ripe beauties.
Tomato season is one of our favorite times of year. With their sweet savory nuanced flavor, all you need is a few simple ingredients to make them taste extraordinary. When it’s tomato season, we make all the fresh tomato recipes! Because it’s only a period of months, Alex and I take every opportunity we get, making tomato salads, caprese salad, BLTs, pasta, pico de gallo, salsa: everything we can think to enjoy all that summer has to offer.
Here we’ve collected our 15 best fresh tomato recipes for the season: and we know you’re going to love them. But first: a few things about fresh tomatoes:
How to find the best tomatoes
For all of these recipes, you’ll need the following: ripe, in season tomatoes! Bonus points if they’re locally grown — or if you grew them yourself! Buying local tomatoes helps support your local farmers: so if there’s a chance to do so, we heartily recommend it. Please do not even think about using off-season, mealy pink tomatoes. The flavor here is 100% dependent on the quality of your tomato!
If you can find them, try using heirloom tomatoes from your local farmer’s market. What are heirloom tomatoes? Heirloom tomatoes are a variety that has been passed down, through several generations of a family by saving the seeds. When you buy heirloom tomatoes, you’ll notice that their color and shape are much more varied than the typical round red tomato. They can vary from chartreuse to gold to purple to orange, from small and round to large and squat.
How to tell if a tomato is ripe
Now, how can you tell if a tomato is ripe? There is actually some contention around the right way of how to tell if a tomato is ripe. According to The Washington Post, squeezing tomatoes can actually damage them! To avoid damaging the tomato, especially ones from your local small farmers at the farmers market, do the following:
- Smell it. The tomato should give off a sweet, earthy smell.
- Hold it. Hold it in your hand: a ripe tomato should feel heavy for its size.
Now on to the fresh tomato recipes!
Here are our 15 favorite ways to use fresh tomatoes.
We’re smack in the midst of tomato season, and what better way to use them than in a classic pasta recipe? This tomato basil pasta is covered in a balsamic sauce, peppered with Parmesan and dotted with torn basil. It uses normal ingredients from your pantry, but in ways you might never have tried them. And it only takes 20 minutes to make. Got tomatoes? Got basil? We’ve got your pasta. It's one of our top fresh tomato recipes...ever.
It might be simple, but this is one of the best fresh tomato recipes there is. Though it’s easy to make, it’s truly one of the greatest taste treats known to man. The mozzarella tomato basil salad is a thing of glory, when the summer tomatoes are the juiciest and the summer basil is bushy and prolific. It’s also called Caprese salad (salad from Capri, Italy) and it’s the dish of the season. Eat it as a side dish for entertaining, or with two forks, eating off the same plate and exclaiming “Wow!” every few seconds or so.
Got tomatoes? Let’s make pico! There’s something so carefree about pico de gallo. Perhaps because it conjures up images of shoveling loads of fresh pico into our mouths while watching the waves the beach in Mexico. Whatever the case, if you’ve got ripe tomatoes, pico is the perfect place to start. Use it as a salsa with tortilla chips, use it on top of grilled or broiled salmon, or of course, throw it into a taco.
This balsamic tomato salad might sound simple, but it's utterly divine. It’s all about simplicity: just tomatoes and herbs, marinaded in balsamic and olive oil for 30 minutes. And once you taste it: it’s truly one of the best fresh tomato recipes you’ll find. It almost brought tears to our eyes. And that’s just the kind of fresh tomato recipe you need.
What is the best salsa recipe? Meet this salsa fresca, a “fresh salsa” made with ripe, juicy tomatoes. If you have access to some legit good fresh tomatoes, we recommend you consider making up a batch stat. It’s super tangy from the lime, a little sweet from the tomato, and has a back-end heat from the jalapeño. Yes, it’s everything you’d want in a fresh salsa recipe!
This grilled cheese with tomatoes & basil isn’t just any old grilled cheese. The fresh cherry tomatoes are roasted just long enough until they’re starting to burst. Then you’ll mash them to extract the juice and mix that into mayo for a killer sauce. It becomes a sort of roasted tomato mayonnaise and totally makes the sandwich! Then of course, you’ll add to that the peppery bite of fresh basil. Oh. my.
What’s better than the sweet, juicy taste of a ripe tomato?The great thing about fresh tomatoes is that they are at their best in simple preparations. And this cucumber tomato onion salad is just that: pure ingredients that when marinaded bring together the richest of flavors. This salad is perfect as a side dish for meals on the patio or summer barbecues: it goes with anything and everything. And the flavor is like pure gold.
The best recipes are the simplest, in our minds. The simplicity of pesto pasta with homemade basil pesto, ripe juicy fresh tomatoes, and a splash of cream can’t be beat. With seasonal ingredients, it will always, always taste beautiful and fresh. And that’s something we can’t get tired of! So excuse us if this recipe is simple. We promise it will blow your mind every time.
The elements in this heirloom tomato, peach, and burrata caprese salad all work together to make magic. First, juicy, succulent ripe peaches and vibrant red, yellow and violet tomatoes that taste literally like summer. Then, burrata: fresh mozzarella cheese filled with shreds of mozzarella soaked in cream. Add some peppery garden basil and some crunchy, salty peanuts, and it’s one of those first bite “Whoa” moments.
After a recent trip to Santorini, Greece — there couldn’t be a better inspiration to take home than the ubiquitous Greek salad. It’s no joke: nearly every restaurant we encountered in Greece serves this salad! And in the hot Grecian sun, there’s not much that tastes more refreshing than the combination of tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, Kalamata olives, and salty feta. This is one of our top fresh tomato recipes because it's so packed with flavor and easy to make.
This incredible eggplant and tomato sandwich was inspired by a trip to the Mediterranean. It features juicy fresh tomatoes alongside smoky grilled eggplant, creamy fresh mozzarella, basil pesto, and our secret ingredient: olive spread. This stacked sandwich looks impressive without the fuss, which makes it a great option for concerts in the park and beach blanket picnics. Don’t forget the wine (or the frosé)!
Here's a fresh tomato recipe that's actually...baked! This upside down cornbread is inverted after baking to show a lovely tomato design. For our concept, we’ve added fresh sage leaves as another detail and flavor component. And at the end, we decided to top the cornbread with grated Parmesan cheese and broil it until crispy. The colors are stunning and it's perfectly moist.
Got some crusty bread? This fresh tomato recipe uses up old bread in the most genius of ways. Panzanella is an Italian bread salad that combines dry, crusty bread squares with fresh vegetables and a vinaigrette. It’s a unique idea for using up old bread, and extraordinarily delicious. You can use any fresh veggies you have on hand. The traditional vegetables used in a panzanella are tomatoes, peppers, red onion, and sometime cucumber.
The last in our fresh tomato recipes is a killer appetizer: melty feta baked with ripe cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and plenty of herbs. It's perfect for serving with crusty bread to sop up those tangy tomatoes and ooey gooey cheese. Pop it in the oven and it's perfect for entertaining dinner guests, or on a Friday evening in with a glass of wine.
Need more fresh tomato recipes?
That wasn’t enough? Here are a few more where that came from:
- Vegan BLT Sandwich Recipe
- Cherry Tomato Pasta
- Cucumber Tomato Avocado Salad
- Roasted Tomato & Asparagus Frittata
- Burrata Salad with Tomatoes
- Vegetable Linguine with Tomatoes
- Heirloom Tomato Salsa Cruda
About the Authors
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.