20-Minute Cherry Tomato Pasta

Aug 29, 2023 · By Bethany Kramer
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Make the most of your summer garden tomatoes and serve this simple and delicious cherry tomato pasta! Every bite sings with creamy tomato sauce, rich notes of parmesan, a little heat from red pepper flakes, and fresh basil. It’s the tastiest and easiest pasta dish!

A white bowl with rigatoni pasta in a cherry tomato sauce. The bowl of pasta is sitting on a tan background with fresh herbs and a small bowl of red pepper flakes arranged around it.

My cherry tomato plants have been producing tons of sweet tomatoes this summer, and I’ve been trying different ways to put them to good use. Along with adding them to all of our salads, they go perfectly with this quick and easy pasta recipe.

The sauce is made of cherry tomatoes, lots of garlic, parmesan cheese, and fresh herbs. We also use starchy pasta water to create a creamy consistency with the tomatoes and cheese! The preparation is simple, but the flavors are elevated, like a restaurant-worthy pasta dish.

We loved every bite of this cheesy tomato pasta, and we hope you do as well!

Key Ingredients

The best thing about this recipe is it uses a handful of simple ingredients! You’ll find a mixture of pantry staples and fresh produce and herbs.

Ingredients for cherry tomato pasta arranged on a tan colored background.

See the recipe card below for the complete list of ingredients and exact measurements.

Pasta – I prefer using smaller pasta shapes like rigatoni, fusilli, or shells. You can also use spaghetti, linguini, or bucatini!

Tomatoes – cherry tomatoes are the best for this recipe because they are the sweetest in flavor and perfect for cooking quickly.

Garlic – This recipe uses a lot of fresh garlic. And it’s not super garlic, either! It adds the perfect amount of rich flavor.

Fresh basil – This is key for fresh herb flavor. I don’t recommend using dried basil.

Parmesan cheese – freshly grated parmesan cheese will add creaminess and cheesiness! I don’t recommend using pre-shredded parmesan because it will not melt the same.

Olive oil – for the sauce and to saute the garlic.

Red pepper flakes – This adds the perfect touch of heat to the pasta dish.

How to Make Cherry Tomato Pasta

See the recipe card below for complete recipe instructions.

A collage of three photos showing how to sauté tomatoes for pasta. The first photo is a stainless steel pan with minced garlic being sautéed with a wooden spoon. The second photo is cherry tomatoes being added to the same pan. The third photo is a wooden spoon stirring the cherry tomatoes that have cooked down in the pan.
  1. 1

    Sauté the garlic and start the pasta water. First, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil for the pasta. Cook the pasta as the package instructs until al dente. Then, in a large sauté pan, cook the garlic in the olive oil for about 30-60 seconds. Make sure the pan is low to medium heat, and not super hot.

  2. 2

    Add the tomatoes. Next, add the tomatoes with the garlic and stir together with a healthy pinch of salt and red pepper flakes.

  3. 3

    Cook the tomatoes. On low-medium heat, cook the tomatoes until they are broken down and like a chunky sauce (about 10 minutes). Use the back of a spoon to crush any tomatoes to break down more.

A collage of three photos showing how to make cherry tomato pasta. The first image is pasta being added to a pan of cooked cherry tomatoes. The second photo is a picture of the pasta in the pan with freshly grated parmesan cheese over top. The third photo is showing the pasta being mixed with the cheese and tomatoes in the same pan.
  1. 4

    Add the pasta to the tomatoes. When the pasta is done and the tomatoes are cooked down, reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining the pasta. Then add the hot pasta noodles to the tomatoes and toss together.

  2. 5

    Add the parmesan and herbs. Then add the freshly grated parmesan cheese, chopped fresh basil, red pepper flakes, and 1/2 cup of pasta water.

  3. 6

    Toss the pasta and cheese together. Last, toss everything together until its completely combined. If the sauce needs more creaminess, add more pasta water. Finish with black pepper over top and serve!

Tips for Success

Always reserve pasta water. Pasta water is a key ingredient in a lot of Italian pasta dishes. It has flavor but, most importantly, starchiness from the pasta, so it naturally adds a perfect creamy touch to cheesy pasta dishes such as this one. It’s also perfect for adding moisture to creamy dishes if the sauce dries.

Fresh parmesan is best. I only use freshly grated cheese – especially parmesan when cooking a cheesy or creamy pasta dish. Pre-shredded parm is generally less flavorful and has little to no moisture, which is needed to make the dish cheesy. So use fresh parmesan if you can!

Fresh herbs. A lot of the flavor comes from the basil in this dish. Because of that, I recommend only using fresh basil. Dried herbs will add a completely different flavor and lack the fresh taste we want!

Leftovers. This pasta will keep for about 3-4 days, chilled in the refrigerator. To reheat it, add the pasta to a pan with a splash of water to add moisture and cook until hot. Then serve with fresh parmesan cheese on top!

Recipe Variations

Add protein. If you’d like to make this recipe with additional protein, you can add grilled chicken or shrimp, or for plant protein, add garbanzo beans.

Use healthier pasta. Instead of regular wheat pasta, use whole-grain pasta (my favorite brand) or chickpea pasta. For gluten-free, I like jovial!

Additional herbs. I like using lots of fresh basil in this recipe, but I also love adding fresh oregano!

A close up of a fork in a bowl of rigatoni pasta that is coated in a cherry tomato sauce.

What to Serve it With

Salad. Alongside this pasta dish, we love to serve it with an Italian-style salad, such as our Tuscan artichoke salad, Panzanella salad, or grilled corn and tomato salad.

Bread. Of course, delicious Italian bread or sourdough would also be perfect served on the side! Be sure to dip it into that delicious tomato & parmesan sauce.

20-Minute Cherry Tomato Pasta

Make the most of your summer garden tomatoes and serve this simple and delicious cherry tomato pasta! Every bite sings with creamy tomato sauce, rich notes of parmesan, a little heat from red pepper flakes, and fresh basil. It’s the tastiest and easiest pasta dish!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 0.5-0.75 lbs dry rigatoni pasta noodles
  • 2 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 heaping cup parmesan cheese, use freshly grated if possible
  • 1 healthy pinch red pepper flakes
  • salt & black pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Cook the pasta: Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Then add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions for al dente. Using a metal cup or ladle reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining the pasta.
  • Saute the garlic: In a large saucepan, saute the minced garlic in olive oil for 30-60 seconds.
  • Add the tomatoes: Then add the tomatoes with a healthy pinch of salt and red pepper flakes and cook for about 10 minutes. While the tomatoes start to cook, use the back of a wooden spoon to crush any tomatoes that need to be broken down.
  • Add the pasta to the tomatoes and cheese: When the pasta and the tomatoes are done, add the pasta to the cooked tomatoes. Then add the fresh chopped basil, freshly grated parmesan, a healthy pinch of black pepper, and a half cup of pasta water. Toss together until everything is coated and creamy, if the sauce is too dry, add more pasta water.
  • Taste and serve: Taste, add more cheese, red pepper flakes, or black pepper if needed, and then enjoy!

Notes

Use healthier pasta. Instead of regular wheat pasta, use whole-grain pasta (my favorite brand) or chickpea pasta. For gluten-free, I like jovial!
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian
Keyword cherry tomato pasta, pasta with cherry tomatoes
Freezer Friendly Yes
Author Bethany Kramer

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