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. rsodonnell

    Nothing beats an original Primanti's sandwich from Pittsburgh! Thick Mancini's Italian bread, your choice of meat, provolone cheese, tomato, french fries and a vinegar/oil coleslaw!

    August 11, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • Jerv

      Damn that sounds great!

      August 11, 2011 at 8:40 am |
  2. jersey girl

    JERSEY TOMATOES!!!!!!! the BEST in the world.... that is the truth. i grew up in south jersey where the farms are plentiful and the tomatoes and jersey corn are nothing short of paradise!!!!!

    August 11, 2011 at 7:34 am |
    • Bobbie

      I've never been there (I live in the deep south), and I have heard about the unbelievable corn and tomatoes from Jersey farms. Wonder what it is, the late growing season or soil? I am traveling up that way next spring, and it will be too early to enjoy either : (

      August 11, 2011 at 9:35 am |
      • Ann

        It's the climate. Long growing season, warm enough temperatures so the plants produce early, and the right amount of rainfall. I'm much further north now, and can only really manage small tomatoes because there isn't enough time. If you go too much further south, the plants get overheated.

        Make all the turnpike jokes you want, but there really is a reason why it's called the garden state!

        August 12, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • Leslie43

      Yes, Jersey tomatoes sliced with salt and pepper and sweet Jersey corn with butter: the best meal in the universe, at least for August.

      Hold the meat and potatos.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  3. bill

    Primanti Brothers Sardine, cheese and egg!

    August 11, 2011 at 7:30 am |
  4. tomato tomotto

    How about sliced tomatoes with sprinkles salt and pepper slice up some red onion and lather the bread wheat/white with best foods mayo and voila..yummmyyyyyyy!!!!

    August 11, 2011 at 6:26 am |
  5. beenthere235

    we grew up with sliced ripe tomatoes from the yard, drizzled with olive oil, a bit of salt and pepper, on sliced italian bread.....yummmm...and healthier

    August 11, 2011 at 6:26 am |
  6. Marv

    Its a great sandwich but I use BAMA mayo instead. It has a little tang and it tastes great on everything. I'm originally from Illinois but living in the south you have to love tomato sandwiches. I eat them all year round when we get to the farmers market.

    August 11, 2011 at 6:10 am |
  7. lance corporal

    right about the bread and mayo waaaaaay off about the bread, 1) store bought white bread is a lessor choice 2) ANY really good quality bread works well with this sammich 3) a really nice baguette or other crusty "peasant" style bread works best and it adds a flavor note and texture and holds up to really fresh juicy maters better 4) if you insist on a simple white bread for nostalgic reasons thick slice a homestyle white round...mmmm much better

    August 11, 2011 at 6:07 am |
  8. Mark

    That's a good sandwich...but to make the best ever, you have to add a couple slices of bacon (or ham or canadian bacon) and some lettuce or even baby spinach...then it's the best sandwich ever.

    August 11, 2011 at 5:19 am |
  9. Mary Kathryn The Great

    Read this at 2:45 am and knowing that I had two freshly picked garden tomatoes on my kithchen counter & some almost crappy white bread, I had to get out of bed & make this sandwich. Hadn't had one in years. Soooooo good! I confess, I ate it right away without letting it ferment"!

    August 11, 2011 at 3:43 am |
  10. Jim Q

    Kat can you please explain why only the tomatoes should be high quality while the rest of the sandwich is garbage? I'll admit one of the finest sandwiches I've had was with home grown tomatoes but I used a fresh baguette and scratch made mayo. Simplicity AND quality is what makes this such a good sandwich.

    August 11, 2011 at 3:30 am |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Sometimes, it's just about what's right in that particular dish. I've had all sorts of fancified, artisanally-crafted green bean casseroles at Thanksgiving. They're great - but they're never going to beat the stuff with Campbell's mushroom soup & Durkee's onions. Memory tastes really wonderful sometimes.

      August 11, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  11. yumm

    i used to eat that growing up on wheat bread also lettuce and mayo on wheat. I'm a vegetarian and growing up when food got a little scarce we experimented. Put a little black pepper on either one of those mmmmmmm

    August 11, 2011 at 1:39 am |
  12. diana

    omg. i used to make so many mayo/mustard and tomato sandwiches—on wheat bread, growing up. love them!!! :) haven't made some in too long! must get back to it again!

    August 11, 2011 at 1:31 am |
  13. Snake

    Buncha Damn Yankees don't know how to eat a mater sammich.

    As for white bread and mayo being white trash, well, yeah, I'll wear that title gladly. I'll take "white trash" over "snooty" any day of the week.

    Sunbeam bread, maters out of my garden, and Blue Plate. Little bit of salt and maybe a slice of Velveeta to mix things up, occasionally. Nothing better.

    August 11, 2011 at 1:25 am |
  14. Philip

    Oh Pleasssee! This concoction can ONLY TAKE Place with New Mexico Green Chili. Otherwise, fugitaboutit!

    August 11, 2011 at 1:11 am |
  15. Jen T

    One thick slice of sourdough, lightly toasted. Slather mayo, maybe a touch of dijon or cheap yellow, thick slices of the above-described tomatoes, superthin slices of onions, a light sprinkling of salt and pepper, et voila. Yes, open-faced.

    August 11, 2011 at 12:56 am |
  16. Mark, Phoenix

    Untoasted white bread and tomatoes = soggy doughball fishbait. The thought literally makes me gag. Now, toast the bread and add some good bacon and lettuce and it is a whole different story to me. Pour a glass of milk and its the ultimate comfort food combo and hangover cure.

    August 10, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
  17. Metrogirl

    This may sound weird, but my father in law used to make the sandwich as you described, but added unsweetened peanut butter to one side of the bread and spinkled it with seasoning salt & pepper. I had to try it since he made them-thinking oooh gross! But it was actually very good!

    August 10, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
  18. Atlanta Cook

    Brown bread–toasted, thick cut bacon, tomato from my garden–red or yellow. Kraft mayonnaise. As Lewis Grizzard said–money can not buy love or home grown tomatoes. Eating one EVERY Day the rest of this month. Good for breakfast too.

    August 10, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
  19. K-Man

    best sandwich known to man..... here's how it's done. toasted english muffin, mayo, pepperjack cheese (added when english muffin is still hot) and turkey. OMG!!! And if you eat it with a small side of Salsa Verde doritos. it is a small piece of heaven. NO TOMATOES INCLUDED!!!! They ruin everything

    August 10, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
  20. Chris

    Peanut Butter and Banana – the absolute very best – not fried... this is not an Elvis thing... just sturdy bread, lots of butter, super chunky peanut butter and a just ripe banana sliced thick. Total heaven!

    August 10, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
  21. A Hess

    Hell yeah, best sandwich ever!! Though I'm a loyal Hellman's girl, I might consider Dukes since Kat clearly understands the amazingness of this sandwich.

    August 10, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
  22. Magdala

    Fresh tomato sandwiches should be good bread, a little butter, fresh from the garden sliced tomatoes and a sprinkle or fresh ground black pepper. Mayo would be too rich and too gooey with the tomatoes.

    August 10, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
  23. Ali

    Thick home-grown tomato slices (none of that cherry-tomato business like in the photo), salt-and-pepper (garlic salt acceptable), Best Foods/Hellman's olive oil mayo, on fresh marble-rye! That's the best sandwich in the world!

    August 10, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
  24. Tony Knerr

    The idea of a Tomato sandwich is good, but it's done all wrong here. To have a PROPER Tomato sandwich, one must start with lightly toasted Italian bread. Place sliced tomatoes on one slice of the bread, and lightly sprinkle them with onion salt. Put a small amount of crushed Garlic on top of that, some fresh chopped Basil on top of that, drizzle some first cold pressed Olive Oil on top, and cover with second slice of lightly toasted Italian bread. THAT is a true genuine Tomato sandwich! Enjoy!

    August 10, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
  25. Sarah Michele

    While I love a tomato sandwich, in August, there is nothing better than a BLT, with fresh tomatoes, lettuce from the garden, sweet Vidalia onions and crispy bacon. Also with mayo, but on a fabulous 12-grain bread. White bread is horrific, grains give it so much more flavor and texture. ....I think I'm going to make one right now.

    August 10, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
  26. whatwhatwhatyo

    ummmm no.

    August 10, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
  27. Cukey

    I agree with this being the best sandwich but only if you change the word tomato to cucumber, peeled with lots of fresh ground pepper and a bit of salt. YUM!

    August 10, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
  28. Marie


    August 10, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
  29. Gross

    How WT can you get; this is why you are fat.

    August 10, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
  30. Doc

    The poll is silly. There is no such thing as the best sandwich in the world. There are many great sandwiches. However, with one caveat, the tomato and mayo on white bread sandwich ranks in the top 10. The caveat is that the tomatoes have to be home grown and ripened on the vine. Store bought tomatoes don't even qualify for consideration. In fact, the tomato sandwich is the very best way to experience home grown tomatoes. There are very few flavors as sublime.

    August 10, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
  31. gabriel

    Just a few slices of yummy, thick, wonderful bacon, please??

    August 10, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • Sarah Michele

      totally agree and Vidalia onions....

      August 10, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
  32. Glen

    You forgot that it must be eaten over the kitchen sink.
    Also high on the favorite sandwich list is a BLT and a nice gooey grilled cheese.

    August 10, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
  33. Antonio666

    Have to disagree with this "best sandwich" business. Best in the universe is a grilled goat cheese on whole grain artisan bread with dijon mustard and a slice of heirloom tomato. Now THAT's a terrific sandwich!

    August 10, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
  34. KatyaR

    All you folks that passed on this divine delicacy, you've just left more tomatoes for the rest of us. Thanks!!

    My mom was a tomato nut, had to have at least 40
    plants every year, but then we'd buy more because we needed some for backup in case some plants died. We literally ate them morning, noon, and night, and any time in between. There's nothing better than a tomato right off the vine, with a little salt and pepper. But a tomato/mayo/white bread sammich is just the BEST SAMMICH EVER.

    August 10, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
  35. sanfranciscogirl

    My dad swears by this plain white bread/tomato/mayo sammie, but demands a fried egg in it. Not bad but rather greasy/heavy, imho. One of my faves is thick tomato on soft sourdough with monterey jack cheese and jalapenos. Yummy.

    August 10, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
  36. Blue for You

    I hate wet sandwiches.

    August 10, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
  37. balloonman

    Add a hard fried egg and a couple basil leaves and then we can talk

    August 10, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  38. Jack Be Humble

    Is it really sacreligious to add crisp strips of bacon and crunchy iceberg lettuce? Please, tell me I'm not going to hell, or at least tell me I'm going there for the right reason.

    August 10, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  39. Pat

    Bologna -thick sliced, on a New York hard roll, with lettuce and mayo.

    August 10, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  40. DooMama

    Zingerman's Deki of Ann Arbor, MI ....D$ Cuban Conundrum... nuff said.

    August 10, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  41. Helen

    Miracle Whip, white bread, and sliced tomato is my favorite summer sandwich.

    August 10, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  42. Jimmy

    Nothing healthy is good for you.

    August 10, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  43. bryan


    August 10, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  44. The_Mick

    I've discovered those frozen 1/4 pound salmon burgers (only 14% fat – good fat, including omega-3) and one ot them – preferably baked slowly for 20 min. in a toaster oven for best texture – topped with lettuce, tomato, and mayo is my current tomato favorite. Other than that, a BLT with mayo is my next favorite – and don't forget the salt and pepper or Montreal steak seasoning as well.

    August 10, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  45. out to lunch

    Skippy's Superchunk peanut butter and razzberry jam on whole wheat bread, served with a bowl of Campbell's bean with bacon soup. Bliss!

    August 10, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  46. beef

    What a stupid article

    August 10, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • Observer

      Please kill yourself.

      August 10, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • Jerv@beef

      I could've eaten Alphabits and crapped out a better post than that.

      August 11, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  47. Athelda

    I'm not so sure about the best sandwich in the world. At some fresh mozarella, spinach, olive oil, and a little crustier bread. Then you'll have a sandwich. Enjoy!

    August 10, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  48. Kate

    It's only perfect if it also has bacon.............

    August 10, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  49. Jimmy

    Lightly toasted white bread, thick cut tomato and pimento cheese !!!!

    August 10, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
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