This versatile tomato sauce can be used with grilled meats or pasta.

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Fresh tomato sauces are versatile. They cook quickly and preserve the fresh taste of the sun-ripened fruit. Toss them with pasta, serve over grilled meats or vegetables, add to a salad as a dressing or spread on toasted slices of French bread for crostini. Try the recipe as is, or think of it as a platform for your own variations: Add chopped olives, mix in a little vinegar, play around with herbs or spice it up with crushed red-pepper flakes.

Do ahead: The chicken needs to marinate for at least 2 and up to 12 hours in the refrigerator. The chicken is best served right after it is cooked. — Stephanie Witt Sedgwick for The Washington Post

Makes 4 servings

For the chicken

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3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons mild olive oil, plus oil for the grill grates


Freshly ground black pepper

Four 4- to 5-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded slightly so each breast is of even thickness (about 1/2 inch)

For the sauce

2 tablespoons mild olive oil

2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic

2 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice (see NOTE), about 1 3/4 cups

2 tablespoons white wine

1/8 teaspoon sugar


Freshly ground black pepper

12 large basil leaves, rolled together tightly and cut into very thin strips (chiffonade)

1. For the chicken: Combine the vinegar, oil and salt and pepper to taste in a shallow dish or gallon-size resealable food storage bag. Add the chicken breast halves; turn to coat thoroughly. Cover the dish or seal the bag and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours. The longer you marinate the chicken, the stronger the balsamic flavor.

2. When ready to cook, prepare the grill for direct heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high (450 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them evenly under the cooking area. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for 4 to 5 seconds. Lightly coat the grill grates with oil.

3. Drain the chicken pieces, discarding the marinade, and transfer them to the grill. Close the lid and cook for about 4 minutes, until the chicken has good grill marks and appears to be done on the first side. Turn the pieces over, cover the grill and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. An instant-read thermometer needs to read 165 degrees in the thickest part of the chicken. Set the chicken pieces aside to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

4. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the tomato sauce: Combine the oil and garlic in a small saute pan or skillet over medium-low heat. When the oil just begins to sizzle, lower the heat and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat so the garlic softens but does not brown.

5. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the tomatoes. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, tossing the tomatoes a few times, then add the wine, sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the liquid in the pan has reduced by half. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed.

6. Cut each piece of cooked chicken on the diagonal into 1/4-inch-wide slices. Arrange the slices on individual serving plates and top each portion equally with the tomato sauce. Garnish with the basil. Serve warm.

Note: To peel tomatoes, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Have ready a bowl of ice water. Cut an “X” in the bottom of each tomato and remove the stem. Working with one at a time, place the tomato in the boiling water for 15 seconds. Use a slotted spoon to quickly transfer it to the ice water. The skin should simply slip off.

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