August 10th, 2011
09:30 AM ET
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Scorpacciata is a term that means consuming large amounts of a particular local ingredient while it's in season. It's a good way to eat. Here's how to pronounce it.

A tomato and mayonnaise sandwich on store-bought white bread is the finest sandwich known to mankind.

This is not up for debate, and the ingredients are not negotiable. Salt and pepper are permissible, but if you try to get schmancier than that, you'll screw it all up, and your sandwich should be taken away from you until you learn to properly appreciate the simple perfection of this combination.

You will not have the opportunity to eat one between, say, mid-September and the beginning of next August, so it's best that you consume them as frequently as humanly possible while tomatoes are in season. One a day would not be overkill and you and your physician should just devise a plan for counteracting any potential over-mayonnaising you may encounter during this period of your gastronomic life.

There may not be Duke's mayonnaise for sale where you live. That's a shame, and you should really try to get some, because it's markedly less sugary than other commercial mayonnaise brands and allows the tomato slices to sing their luscious, sweet and tangy tune.

Hellmann's will also get the job done, but if anyone begins to bring up the possibility of making the mayonnaise for this sandwich at home ("It's sooooo eeeeaaasssyyy. Just use your bllleeeenderrrr..."), banish them to the porch until they have contemplated the error of their ways. Yes, even if it is raining. Simplicity is serious business here.

Same goes for the white bread. You must not make this bread, nor should the word "artisanal" be uttered within 100 paces of it. You must purchase this bread and the word "crappy" must be at least somewhat applicable to it. Chef Bill Smith of Crook's Corner restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina makes his with store-bought bread (a move New Orleans chef Adolfo Garcia reportedly referred to as "ballsy") and the man's won or been nominated for every big cooking award under the sun. Trust him, for he is a professional maker of tomato mayo sandwiches.

Upon this soft, crappy bread, slather the mayonnaise. How thickly and on one or both slices - that's your business. On top of one slice, layer tomatoes.

Now, these tomatoes. You did not under any circumstances pick these up at the supermarket, unless you know for really and for truly that they've worked out some sort of deal with a local farmer. This isn't about being a snob; it's about making sure your food tastes of something other than vaguely sour red-colored packing material and was picked under humane conditions.

The tomatoes should come from a farm, a farmstand, a neighbor or if you're extremely lucky, your own garden. If the angels are smiling upon you from the heavens and you saved a basket of kittens from certain death on a railroad track in a past life, these tomato will be of an heirloom variety. They should be red (yes the yellows, oranges and purples are stunning to behold, but we're on a particular mission here) and taste of blue skies and blazing sun. At the very least, they should have been grown in soil rather than a hydroponic compound, but sometimes, we must make do. If they have seen the inside of a fridge, though, skip them. These are not the tomatoes you're looking for.

Cut the slices to whatever depth brings you the greatest pleasure. For some, this will be akin to the thickness of a thumb. Others may wish to skim this month's copy of Nightshade Enthusiast through theirs. Either way, you're in it for the juice - or rather the locular jelly, which is that luscious goop in the center that holds all the acid. There should be enough of that to stain the mayonnaise a light pink and make your knees buckle just a little bit.

When you're finished layering the slices. Stack on the top slice and...wait. It'll taste good right now, but it'll be even better in ten or fifteen minutes when the juice has had a chance to seep in and meld with the mayonnaise and juuuuust begin to sog up that first millimeter or two of bread. You've held out all year for tomatoes to be in season - what's a few minutes more?

And when you do finally grasp that sandwich with both hands, lift it to your mouth and take that first big, sloppy bite of summer, all the world will melt away for a minute. Then you'll start dreaming of your next one.

Previously - Heirloom tomatoes, explained and You really should be putting tomatoes in your drinks



soundoff (438 Responses)
  1. Marissa

    I'm completely in love with tomato & mayo sandwiches. I just think that this takes simplicity to the extreme... and to an extent that really holds this sandwich back from its potential greatness...

    First, this article doesn't place nearly enough emphasis on the importance of the tomatoes. You need something perfectly ripe, super sweet, and only certain varieties will do. It's not just about getting it from a farmer. For example, farm grown roma tomatoes... not right for this sandwich. If you can't get heirloom (and, really, you must get heirloom) – beefsteak will almost suffice. But only if it's incredibly ripe and soft. Honestly, as someone who has eaten Italian tomatoes on-the-farm at the peak of the season... most of what is here in the US is crap. Luckily, I'm in SoCal now and have access to some seriously gorgeous tomatoes for a much longer season than the rest of the country...

    As for the mayo... homemade mayo is amazing. It should be used whenever possible. This article can take its emphasis on "simplicity" and shove it...

    And bread. I'm sorry. Homemade white bread is ALWAYS better than store bought. Deal with it.

    And THOSE factors... would make this a magical sandwich!!!

    August 10, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  2. Jennlur

    Must be freshly farmed tomatoes but also must be store bought white bread, makes sense...

    August 10, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
  3. Mabel

    Toasted wheat bread with homemade basil pesto mixed with mayo on one side, dijon mustard on the other. Slice a roma tomato thinly and add to the pesto side. Finely chop red onion and add to the tomato. Add a slice of Boar's Head baby swiss cheese to the mustard side, then layer several slices of Boars Head honey maple turkey breast on top of the cheese. Add some pepper and place the meat and cheese side on top of the tomato pesto side to complete the sandwich. Cut in half and serve with bread and butter pickles.
    Divine.

    August 10, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  4. SUJ

    We have a variation of this sandwich. It is only made with the best home grown tomato in garden and the first ripe habenero. One such sandwich a year... The pepper seeds removed and the pepper fruit finely diced and sprinkled upon the tomato in the very sandwich you describe. It is halved and shared with a close friend for how could one be so stingy as to keep this all to their self.

    And yes, the sandwich describe in this article is remembered fondly in the fall, dreamed about all through the coldest of winter, its thought motivates the spring tilling and planting. It is the culmination of a successful garden. Cheers.

    August 10, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  5. Bev

    A toasted (good) whole grain bread, you've got the homegrown tomatoes correct but add bacon and avocado and mayo.....none better!

    August 10, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  6. You must be joking

    Too cheap to buy bacon and lettuce are we? The BLT is hands-down the KING of sandwiches. No argument. End of story.

    August 10, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  7. DD

    This brought up memories of going to my grandparents farm when I was a little girl.....sitting at the kitchen table eating tomato and butter sandwiches on homemade bread....yum!

    August 10, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  8. Ryko

    My two least favorite foods....foul.

    August 10, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • I Heart Evil Grin

      @Ryko, Thats all you have to offer to the conversation? Why even bother?

      August 10, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  9. Bill Kirby

    OK, where does this author live? Siberia? "You will not have the opportunity to eat one between, say, mid-September and the beginning of next August, so it's best that you consume them as frequently as humanly possible while tomatoes are in season." Here in South Carolina, you'll find local tomatoes from May to early November.
    And all you folks who think Duke's is so great, did you know that stuff is really all the other brands that expired on the shelf? Duke's buys it, mixes it all together, and re-jars it. That's why it has that rancid taste. LOL

    August 10, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  10. tazer warrior princess

    I think paninis take the cake, presonally. Subway is disgusting.

    August 10, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  11. Andrew

    Mayo is for sandwich cheaters let alone store bought! The sandwich for me a home made oven roasted turkey, avocado, tomato, sprouts and bacon on whole grain wheat. With the avocado there is no need for mayo!

    August 10, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  12. WOW

    @Matthew....I feel bad for you if the best sandwich you have ever had is from a chain restaraunt- and a Subway at that

    August 10, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  13. Richd

    BLT with sliced avocado on toast

    August 10, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  14. Matthew

    Subway's spicy Italian on their herb & cheese bread, Toasted with provalone cheese, topped with cucumber, spinach, green pepper, tomatoes, and light mayo.

    August 10, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  15. J.

    White bread? Naaah. A really good rustic wheat. And tarragon mayo, not plain. That degree of "fancy" doesn't mess it up at all.

    August 10, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  16. Megan

    The best sandwich I've ever had is "The Vegetarian" at Little Deli in Austin, TX. Hands down.

    August 10, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  17. Virginia

    Truly the nectar of the gods. Only way it can be improved is when the tomatoes are still warm from sunning themselves in the garden. And with do respect to heirloom tomatoes, I prefer a Slocomb tomato picked fresh in and around Slocomb, AL. Divine.

    August 10, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  18. ak2k

    chumky peanut butter, grape jelly, and cheese puffs...nom nom nom!

    August 10, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  19. Truefax

    put some pastrami on that.

    August 10, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  20. Mark Larezzo

    Cant go wrong with a good Cuban or a classic Bah Mihn (vietnamese) sandwich.

    August 10, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  21. Jennifer

    I really miss the schnitzel sandwiches I used to get in Germany – hands down, the BEST sandwich I ever had. There was a tiny little schnitzel stand around the corner from where I worked, I'd get one for lunch every day.

    August 10, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Mark Larezzo

      There is a schnitzel truck here in NYC that makes great sandwiches

      August 10, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
      • I Heart Evil Grin

        Jealous you have food trucks, they were banned in my city

        August 10, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  22. RichardHead

    Pink Tacos-Nuff said.

    August 10, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • JAh

      HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

      August 10, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  23. Mark Larezzo

    Tomato – Yuck.

    Mayo – double Yuck

    Best sandwich is a proper Italian.

    August 10, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • The Witty One

      The best sandwich is one where i'm the meat and Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis are the bread! Tasty!

      August 10, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
      • Truth@TWO

        I concur, but I would vote for Grace Park and Eva Longoria

        August 10, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
      • The Witty One@Truth

        Now that's some bread I could eat!

        August 10, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
      • Truth@TWO

        Sela Ward may also suffice quite nicely...

        August 10, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
      • Matthew

        Why do I suspect the meat is 80% fat (liverwurst).

        August 10, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
      • The Witty One@Matt

        I'm like ground turkey....I'm lean, and I will bite your face off if provoked.

        Turkey's do that, right?

        August 11, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  24. mauibear

    Not only does it sound awfully bland, but it sounds VERY unhealthy. Before I went vegetarian, I thought BLT's were the best. Now it's a toss up between peanut butter and sweet pickes on whole wheat or a fresh tuna salad sandwich with lettuce and tomatoe on homemade whole wheat bread. Yum

    August 10, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • me

      if you are vegetarian why are you eating tuna?

      August 10, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • KT

      pescatarian.

      August 11, 2011 at 3:54 am |
  25. Kris

    I grab a hot garlic-herb rotisserie chicken and a fresh sliced rosemary and olive oil loaf (or italian loaf) from Harris Teeter. Apply a little olive oil to the outsides of two slices. Lather the insides with homemade basil-mayo, throw on some of the chicken pulled from the rotisserie, add roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes and havarti cheese. Throw it in the panini press and heat to perfection.

    August 10, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  26. Mack the Knife

    The only way I can describe this is 'Barf on a Bisket'. I like mayo and tomatoes, but this looks and sounds like last weeks garbage. You should throw avacado, sprouts, and Bavarian beaver cheese on there and call it a 'Califorian Surprise'.

    August 10, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  27. DL

    Grilled cheese on sourdough bread. The cheese must be cut into extra thick slices.

    Peanut butter and jelly (strawberry) is especially good comfort food.

    Bologna on toast (useful for dipping into tomato soup).

    August 10, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • DB

      Agree! Grilled cheese made with Panera sourdough, ample butter and Velveeta (yes Velveeta. horrors!) sliced thick from the block. Ridiculous it is so good, and great in the winter with creamy tomato soup.

      August 10, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  28. jude

    My fav requires a mountian pie iron; you lather two pieces of bread in buttter, place them butter down in the pie iron, stack with turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. Close the iron and stick it in the woodstove for 5 min. Call it a Born on the Mountain Pie! mmmmmmmm As for this sandwich, I'm not a tomato guy, nor a mayo guy, so it sounds less than appetizing to me. but each to thier own!

    August 10, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  29. Jeff

    Grilled cheese with Velveeta and a slice of real beef bologna in the middle. THAT tastes like moms love and childhoods endless glee. THAT tastes like long summer days and splashing through rain puddles. THAT is the perfect sandwich and I'm ready to throw down with any mayo and 'mater eater who says otherwise.

    August 10, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  30. Dracorat

    You want an easy to make and delicious sandwich?

    Peanut Butter & Butter. No joke.

    August 10, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  31. Cell Bernardino

    Some chopped green olives and sliced hard-boiled egg would improve those tomatoes. In Philadelphia, where I grew up, in the famous and historic Reading Terminal Market, there was a sandwhich shop called Spataro's. Spataro's was famous for, among other things, their egg and olive sandwhich with fresh totmato. It didn't sound great to me either, but one bite and I was hooked. The way the three flavors compliment each other is extraordinary.

    August 10, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  32. sneaux

    This sound gross... And looks even worse! If you're looking for the best in the universe, you've gotta go with the post-thanksgiving turkey sandwich. Plain and simple.

    August 10, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  33. Alix

    The very thought of the texture of this sandwich, much less the taste, makes me want to heave, sorry.

    August 10, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  34. SuperFoodie

    Sorry that is the worst sandwich ever created. Not up for debate.

    August 10, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
  35. Ben

    Best sandwich ever... Primanti Brothers PITTS-BURGHER CHEESE STEAK for sure

    August 10, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • IHEG

      @Ben, what about Philly? I'll be there in October and don't want to do the touristy Pat's or Geno's if possible

      August 10, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Foofisher

      Primant's it is, but I prefer the fish or double egg and cheese.

      August 11, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  36. IHEG

    @ Livingin VA...Toast or not toast? I prefer a turkey club myself

    August 10, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  37. LivingInVA

    BLT – same first three ingredients (cheap bread, good mayo & excellent tomatoes) but add some fresh garden lettuce and crispy bacon.....

    August 10, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • me

      mmm, blt has to be on sourdough.

      August 10, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  38. IHEG

    @ K from NYS, why are you sorry? atleast you were respectable and not disgusting in your comment

    August 10, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  39. K from NYS

    For the go to sandwich classic it has to be P B and J...preferably with homemade strawberry or blackberry freezer jam.
    With more time to cook- grilled chicken, chipolte spread, roasted red peppers and cheese in a 7 grain homemade panini bread.
    Ordered out – grilled chicken, Buffalo sauce, blue cheese and lettuce – mmmmm.

    Sorry but the smell of plain mayo turns my stomach and I only like tomatoes seasoned and preferrably cooked into a sauce.

    August 10, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  40. al

    The best sandwich in the world is clearly the BAHN MI!

    August 10, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • Truth@al

      Đi vít mình

      August 10, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
  41. Snookii

    Fried Pickles seriously changed my life

    August 10, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • IHEG

      Thanks! are you a Juice head Gorilla?

      August 10, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  42. ncgirl

    I am a dedicated foodie – I spend untold hours researching and trying out new foods, recipes and restaurants, and I love that in there's such focus these days on local, organic food and the best ways to prepare them That said, there is nothing, NOTHING that compares with the white bread / Dukes mayo / 'mater-fresh-out-of-the garden-sandwich! Simplicity is the key here, and the spotlight's on the tomato. Beautiful heirloom tomatoes come into their own with the minimal frame of bread and mayo. It DOES have to be Dukes, to the poster above, no, Hellman's and Dukes are not the same!

    August 10, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Delta@ncgirl on the r@g

      Tard at the beginning and snot at the end. KUTGW. School starts soon enough.

      August 10, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
      • Snookii

        I agree with the comment, but lost on the acronym? Sorry its 2:30 and Deena and Jwow and I just woke up and drinking liquid lunch

        August 10, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
      • Truth@Snookii

        KUTGW = Keep Up The Good Work

        August 10, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Jorge

      See, this is why I can't handle women from the South.

      August 11, 2011 at 9:10 am |
      • Over-generalization Nazi@Jorge

        That's ok. We can't handle you either.

        August 11, 2011 at 9:15 am |
  43. sarahsoandso

    Duke's mayo is BOSS. As is Harriett The Spy's favorite sammy.

    August 10, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  44. AuntieMame

    The best sandwich in the universe – grilled cheese! Oooey, gooey, grilled American cheese on two buttery pieces of white toast. Throw some fries on the side of that, and you've got heaven on a plate. Yum!

    August 10, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • Snookii

      Try it next time with a side of salsa for dipping, delish

      August 10, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  45. me

    all sounds fine but the white bread. Can't hang with store bought white bread.

    August 10, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  46. TP

    Tomatoes? – Terrible...Mayonnaise? – Could just as easily substitute mayonnaise with vomit. I might possibly smell it if there was a gun to my head. How about a cold-cut Italian grinder with extra mustard and pickles?

    August 10, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Snookii

      @ TP Mustard? – "Could just as easily substitute mayonnaise with vomit. I might possibly smell it if there was a gun to my head". Classy.

      The only acceptable condiment on an Italian is salt, pepper and oil and MAYBE some italian seasoning.

      August 10, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  47. Jamie C. Baker

    Turkey and cheese, extra mayo, served with Lays ruffled chips (which must be inserted into the sandwich at some point)

    I don't know what it was, but as a child, sandwiches were always better when you put a layer of chips inside of it.

    August 10, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • I Heart Evil Grin-

      @ Jamie, peanut butter and grape jelly with corn chips, salt and sweet YUM

      August 10, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  48. jdembroski

    I prefer tuna

    August 10, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Elwood@jdembroski

      That's what HE said, bow bow bow.

      August 10, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  49. kit

    if there was some bacon... well THEN it would be a sandwich.

    August 10, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  50. ProperSouthernGent

    It is obvious that you have never had a Muffuletta at the Central Grocery in New Orleans. This is CLEARLY the greatest sandwich EVER created.

    August 10, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
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