L’insalata di pomodoro perfetta – the perfect tomato salad

tomato salad


The perfect tomato salad does not exist, of course. It is one of those highly personal things even if there are a few unbreakable rules. However, I thought it would be a nice idea to share with you what the great Neapolitan food writer Jeanne Carola Francesconi, the author of one of the grandest Italian cookery books La Cucina Napoletana (1963), says about tomato salad.This is my translation.

“Fresh, dewy, savoury, tomato salad is the symbol of summer. One likes it at first sight, with its warm colours that speak of the sun and with its juices that speak of the richness of the earth.

You must know how to make it properly though: the tomatoes will be more or less green, according to taste, or almost as ripe as those used to make tomato sauce. And, again according to taste, they will be large and round, with or without seeds, or pear shaped. They will always be delicious, but they must be dressed judiciously: plenty of salt,  a lot of oil and no vinegar, god forbid – you would spoil them.

From this fresh base, you will always be able to vary flavours, starting from garlic, almost de rigueur, onion and parsley (only if you do not have other herbs). Basil will add freshness, with its tender, young leaves; origano will accentuate the flavour; a few celery stalks, with their leaves, will make a nice contrast. Black olives from Gaeta,  capers and anchovies will make it piquant, tuna preserved in oil will marry with it beautifully and freselle (hard rusks) from a dark country bread will absorb the juices and will make it more substantial. You can add one, two or three of these ingredients or even all of them – the salad will become a real meal, nourishing and tantalising.

On summer evenings, when the heat is oppressive and you are happily tired, drunk from a day of sea and sun, still immersed in that magic enchantment to where nature has transported you, a tomato salad, with its ingenuity, its juices, its fragrance, will be the natural quiet epilogue to those most recent sensations.”


7 thoughts on “L’insalata di pomodoro perfetta – the perfect tomato salad

  1. Fresh tomatoes are truly one of summer’s greatest joys. Our favorite is simple fresh tomatoes with the best quality extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper.


      1. my pleasure— do u have this book? I must have asked u already.. it is within yr skills, do get it if u dnt have it – a treasure


  2. Francescone’s book is indeed a treasury of southern Italian cuisine, and some of her simplest recipes, like this one for tomato salad, are the most exquisite.

    BTW: we here in New York have been blessed this summer with a wonderful crop of delicious tomatoes of all sorts, from San Marzano types to our almost-native beefsteaks to several heirloom varieties. I hate the thought that this seasonal bounty must soon end.

    Tom Maresca


    1. ciao Tom, here in england summers are generally rarely hot and long enough to have superlative tomatoes (and it occasionally rains). the quality is getting better but still, of course and understandably, non the same as mediterranean tomatoes. On top of this, here tomatoes are always sold red, i.e. very ripe; I grew up with insalatari, i.e. tomatoes for salad always picked with green areas… not totally type.. I think this makes for a more interesting salad – de gustibus, of course


  3. I read about a tomato salad (but unfortunately I can’t for the life of me remember her name) made by a French lady living in Canada (?) who is half Egyptian and must be in her nineties now … anyway, her tip was to place the tomatoes in hot water for less than 1 minute, but long enough to allow the removal of its skin. She then made a vinaigrette (yes, with vinegar !!!) and fresh tarragon leaves. I tried it a little while ago (I grow tarragon on my balcony – or rather it grows itself, I am not very good at growing anything !) and I must say it was very good indeed. Plenty of salt too, of course. Tomatoes are wonderful in the summer !


    1. It sounds wonderful JO… yes, I have known people who would not touch a raw tomato (in salad), unless skinned.. the method u mention sound French and delicious: actually, I confess, I disagree with Francesconi: sometimes a little vinegar goes well with tomatoes (like in panzanella, for instance). A great tomato dressing I like is: sherry vinegar where some garlic has macerated, spooned over the tomatoes + oil. I love terragon, in moderation: an herb rarely used in Italy, I think


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