How to make the most of tomatoes: three dishes where they are the star of the show

Gráinne O’Keefe: When tomatoes are at their ripest and juiciest, let them shine as a main ingredient

Knowledge is knowing that tomatoes are a fruit and wisdom is to make them into a summer dish with lots of fresh, vibrant and light garnishes. This is the perfect time of year to use them as a main ingredient in your dishes. When tomatoes are at their ripest and juiciest, I prefer to make them the star of the show.

Search out some heirloom variety tomatoes. They are beautiful to look at as well as to eat, and all the different varieties make for some texturally contrasting and colourful dishes.

I love a tomato sandwich, with freshly cut and seasoned tomatoes served on some fresh crusty bread and lashings of butter. I’m also a big fan of fried green tomatoes as a snack, dipped into a roasted garlic aioli and seasoned with some tajin, the Mexican spice mixture made with mild chillies and lime.

It’s very handy to pick up a jar of tomato sauce in a shop and use it to make a pasta dish. I grew up on jars of tomato sauce and still have a place for it in my home cupboard sometimes. But it can be just as quick to make a really tasty tomato sauce using very few ingredients (and no sugar or additives).


The stuffed pasta is a take on the stuffed pasta shells that are all over social media at the moment. I first came across them after meeting food influencer Dan Pelosi in New York recently and have been obsessed ever since. The large conchiglie shells can be hard to find here so a cannelloni substitute works just as well.

Toons Bridge mozzarella is one of my favourite Irish-made mozzarellas, along with Macroom. They are perfect for a classic caprese salad, or one with a few additions, like my recipe this week. I love to use pickled walnut dressing in my salads as it is tangy, sweet and umami all at once. You can buy pickled walnuts in many specialist food shops.

Focaccia was the first bread I learned to make, in Il Segreto restaurant in Dublin, when I was 17. I love its simplicity and how it carries flavours so well. A very simple tomato butter elevates it to restaurant quality too.

Recipe: Caprese salad with sundried tomato pesto and pickled walnuts

Recipe: Stuffed pasta shells with spinach, ricotta, pistachio and cherry tomatoes

Recipe: Tomato, rosemary, and red onion focaccia with whipped roasted garlic and tomato butter