Crudaiola (a glorious raw tomato sauce for pasta)


Crudaiola is one of the most delectable and simplest Summer sauces for pasta or rice. Diced fresh tomatoes, plenty of basil, a little garlic, a generous glug  of olive oil and a pinch salt – a delicious no-brainer. Actually, there is one more crucial ingredient the cook must not forget: time. For the magic to happen, crudaiola must be made in advance, the early morning for lunch, for instance. During this time, the ingredients interact with each other and the sauce is transformed from good to excellent.The tomatoes wilt a little and release their lovely summery juices, the olive oil lends body, the garlic and basil muscle in with their heady perfume. When this simple mix hits the hot, plain pasta or rice, the explosion of flavor and smell is truly special. During the often unbearable Italian summer, this uncooked sauce can  wake up the most jaded palate and it is a great asset for the cook because  it can be assembled quickly just before going to work or to the beach and then kept at room temperature (or in the fridge if it is really super hot)

To ring a change, the basic version can be jazzed up:  one could add few black olives, some capers, a few roquette leaves and/or some shavings of ricotta salata..Sometimes I use mint instead of basil or  a mix of herbs (basil, mint, parsley, oregano  always fresh, of course); I occasionally chop the garlic instead of using whole cloves (removed before serving) or I  add a pinch of peperoncino.. This sauce works equally well with pasta (it is particularly glorious with orecchiette) and with plain boiled rice. Crudaiola never faisl to charm .

There is no recipe for crudaiola of course, just guidelines.
This is what I do: I generally use firm cherry tomatoes, because they are so sweet these days, and I dice them rather small. If I use bigger tomatoes, I never skin them, but it is really up to you. I then salt them very lightly and dress them with  olive oil, plenty of basil and some cloves of garlic. This is let to rest, covered for few hours, at room temperature.
I cook the pasta, I drain it  thoroughly and I pour it over the sauce. A quick mix, an extra drizzle of olive oil and lunch is ready.


the word crudaiola does not exist in the Italian language, however it clearly derives from the adjective crudo, which means raw.

A curiosity: in 1958 Elizabeth David described this dish for an article written for Vogue (London edition). You can now find the recipe in the her wonderful An Omelette and a glass of Wine where she calls it Giulia’s tomato sauce and dry rice




11 thoughts on “Crudaiola (a glorious raw tomato sauce for pasta)

  1. I love simple pasta dishes! My mom never made this but I remember eating a similiar dish at my friend’s mom’s house. The only difference was that she added a bit of pasta water to the sauce. Will definitely be trying this dish soon. Thanks for sharing!


    1. Ciao Rosa (what a beautiful name, by the way) if u have good tomatoes this dish is a real winner. if u then use quality pasta (right now I am in love with Benedetto Cavalieri’s wholemeal pasta), it becomes a masterpiece. see us on (ps I am part Calabrian too— do u know the Rosetta Costantino’s Calabrian cook book? – I’m pretty sure u do…) s


      1. Ciao Stefano! Thanks for your compliment! I’m named after my paternal grandmother, and I must say, that I have always liked it. She was a wise woman and I am honoured to have her name. 🙂

        I googled Benedetto Cavalieri pasta and I can order it online (I have yet to see it at the grocery store). I will give it a try. I always buy good quality pasta, unless I make it myself.

        That’s cool that you also have Calabrian roots … and yes, I have her book. How could I not? 😉

        A presto!


  2. Stefano – As we are in the midst of a glorious tomato season, you can be assured this will land on our table this week. Making it early in the day is akin to making salsa for Mexican food! Great tip.

    Also, David’s “An Omelette and a Glass of Wine ” had been a favorite of mine for years.


    1. Elizabeth David: I know it might sound a little like a clichè, BUT H her books are truly excellent. In terms of food writing she is still quite unique


  3. I am not a great lover of raw tomatoes (I know, I know, there’s something wrong with me) but that sounds really good. I often make something similar in the summer, but I cook it just a tiny bit. When we have good tomatoes here in a month or so, I will definitely try this.


  4. Love crudaiola! It’s our go-to summer pasta sauce.

    Like you, I don’t bother skinning the tomatoes, but I do sometimes salt them and let them drain a bit before mixing them with the other ingredients. Otherwise, at least with the tomatoes you can find around here, they tend to exude so much liquid that the sauce becomes a bit watery while it “marinates”. Not the end of the world by any means—the sauce is still delicious—but less liquid intensifies the flavor.


    1. Oddly enough, we can now find rather good english tomatoes which are perfect for crudaiola, ripe but not too watery. I can now also find Sicilian marina tomatoes that are gorgeous but also soooo expensive, about 10 pounds per kg! – the most expensive crudaiola ever!

      Liked by 1 person

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