This 5-Minute, No-Cook Ina Garten Recipe Is My Favorite Way to Use Up Extra Tomatoes

One reviewer calls the recipe “absolute heaven”—and they’re 100% correct.

In the south, there are only three seasons: college football season, tomato sandwich season and the short period of time between those two seasons. In the summer, when tomatoes are at their peak, a tomato sandwich's only peer is the BLT—a sandwich that combines fresh tomatoes and salty bacon, both of which are kryptonite for southerners.

As someone who has lived in Alabama my entire life, the tomato sandwich might be the meal I've eaten most. But it never gets old. Whether you use cheap white bread from the store or a loaf of fresh-made bread from a local bakery, you cannot ruin a tomato sandwich in its purest form: bread, tomato and Duke's mayonnaise (do not even try to use the low-fat stuff). You can, however, make it even better than you knew it could be. Enter: Ina Garten's basil mayonnaise.

Ina Garten next to a Tomato Sandwiches with Basil-Anchovy Mayo recipe image
Photo: Penny De Los Santos, Getty Images / Michael Loccisano

Garten's recipe for a Tomato Sandwich with Basil Mayonnaise first appeared in a 2006 episode of Barefoot Contessa, and I still remember where I was the first time I watched it. The recipe comes near the end of the episode, when Garten finally remembers to make herself a meal after prepping a delicious (and adorable) weekend dinner of personal chicken pot pies. (We're partial to this recipe for a Slab Chicken Potpie.)

She decides to opt for a tomato sandwich, picking out a beautiful golden heirloom tomato and a loaf of white bakery bread for the job. And while any decent tomato sandwich comes with a smear of mayonnaise, Garten takes hers up a notch. After mixing together mayo, lemon juice, chopped basil, a clove of garlic, salt and pepper, Garten adds a generous layer of this thinned, bright and flavorful mayo to one slice of bread, then piles her tomato on top with a few extra sprigs of basil for good measure. "That's my kind of dinner without cooking," Garten says as she slices up her simple sandwich.

I immediately added Garten's mayo to my sandwich routine and never looked back. I add a dab of basil mayo to anything that needs a little zhushing up: grilled cheeses, tomato sandwiches, BLTs or any other summer sandwich I can get my hands on. The spread adds a huge punch of flavor to everything, and it's super customizable. If I've made too much pesto, I'll combine pesto, lemon juice and mayo together for an even simpler fix. If I'm out of lemons, I'll skip that ingredient. If I'm craving something with a kick, I'll throw in some red pepper flakes. Like most simple but delicious Ina Garten recipes, this one is utterly foolproof. And I'm not the only person obsessed with it.

Reviewers call it "the tastiest sandwich I've had in years," and others call out how simple and timeless the recipe is. One reviewer suggests adding the mayo to a mozzarella and tomato panini, which sounds beyond heavenly. Others use the mayo as a dip for crudités or some sweet potato fries.

Any time I revisit this basil mayo recipe, I find more dishes I want to top with it. Try it for yourself, and trust me when I say it will send your late-summer meals to a higher plane.

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