Simple, mais bon. Simple, but good. This may just be my new favorite food expression in France, because it beautifully, succinctly, and even poetically embraces the joy of unfussy, unadulterated food. Plus it offers a nifty new way to say something is delicious…because aren’t we all a little tired of the words ‘tasty’ and ‘delicious’ these days? And leave it to the French to say ‘but’ rather than ‘and.’ That one word choice changes everything. ‘Simple and good (or ‘good and simple,’ if you’re going to say it in correct English) doesn’t have the same ring to it at all. The ‘but’ highlights the ‘good’ and turn its meaning into something closer to excellent without having to go all multi-syllable to do so.

But enough of the semantics, and on to this recipe which is the epitome of “Simple, mais bon.” On paper (or a screen), it’s nothing special. The ingredients list reads like one for any old tomato sauce. All you have to do is chop and stir—and all I’ve done is write down the quantities I think work best. But this may just be the best recipe you make all summer.

In keeping with the French penchant for understatement, I will forego any more superlatives and just say: Make this sauce now. Make it often. Make it all summer long and into the fall, until there are no more local tomatoes to be found. Play around with it using different herbs (I am partial to parsley because it lets you really taste the tomatoes), olives, capers, balsamic vinegar, and/or a little spice. Serve it every which way you can.* You will never get tired of it. (I never seem to.) It is simple. But good.

Summer Tomato Sauce

2 medium fresh tomatoes, chopped (10 oz./300 g.)
2 green onions, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
¼ cup fresh herbs (parsley, basil, cilantro, tarragon, or mint, chives, etc., or a combination), coarsely chopped
1 to 2 Tbs. olive oil
1 small clove garlic, minced (1/2 tsp.)
salt and pepper, to taste

Stir together all the ingredients in a medium bowl. Let stand at least 15 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to develop. Makes 2 cups, or enough for 2 pasta servings

How I go about the sauce prep when serving it with pasta: First I make the sauce. Then I put the water on to boil. By the time the water has boiled and the pasta has cooked, the sauce has had enough time to sit to let the flavors develop. Also, I never, ever, ever refrigerate the sauce if I can help it. Covered, it will keep up to 4 hours at room temperature in a cool place. And one last thing…this is one pasta dish that tastes nearly as luscious cold as it does hot.

* Here’s a short list of ways you can use this sauce.

  • Put it over pasta (duh!)
  • Dump it over lettuce for a salad (no dressing necessary!)
  • Fold it into an omelet
  • Use it as a quiche filling
  • Spoon it onto bread for bruschetta
  • Spread it on a sandwich
  • Call it a salsa and serve it with chips
  • Eat it straight as a chunky gazpacho
  • Serve it with shrimp instead of cocktail sauce