This cherry tomato pasta pairs sweet tomatoes blistered in a hot pan with fresh basil and Parmesan. An easy dinner idea that’s simply stunning!

Cherry tomato pasta

Here’s a meal that’s simple, stunning, and highlights the very best summer ingredients: Cherry Tomato Pasta! Just looking at these photos makes us swoon. (And yes: it tastes as good as it looks.) This easy dinner idea stars blistered tomatoes, a technique of cooking tomatoes in a hot pan until the skin blisters and blackens. Mix the tomatoes with tangy balsamic vinegar, then add al dente pasta and peppery fresh basil. You’ll be amazed at the amount of flavor these classic summer ingredients infuse in 20 minutes. Use it to impress guests, or as a fast and easy dinner that’s over-the-top tasty.

Ingredients for cherry tomato pasta

Here’s a breakdown of ingredients you’ll need for this cherry tomato pasta recipe. It’s only a handful, but of course you’ll want to have the best tomatoes you can find.

  • Cherry tomatoes: Use only the ripest, best cherry tomatoes. Farmers market or garden tomatoes are ideal. Some grocery stores carry hydroponic greenhouse cherry tomatoes, which can have good flavor. Make sure you know the quality before making this recipe!
  • Pasta: You can use any type of pasta here. We like using a short pasta so the tomatoes don’t get lost. See below!
  • Fresh basil: Fresh basil is a must! Not only does it have a lovely contrasting color, it completes the flavor.
  • Grated Parmesan cheese: This is the type that is like powdery snow, not thin sticks. You can use either, but the powdery effect melds into the pasta better.
  • Olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper: Round it out with the usual suspects for an Italian dish!
Cherry tomato pasta

Tips for blistered tomatoes

Blistered tomatoes are cooked quickly in a hot pan so the outsides get blackened and the tomatoes deflate but don’t burst. The technique for making blistered tomatoes is fast, but you need to know a few pointers before you start! Read this before proceeding with the cherry tomato pasta:

  • Important: don’t crowd the pan! If the pan is crowded when you attempt this recipe, the tomatoes will steam instead of blister. They’ll get all wet and soggy. This is not what you want!
  • You may need to blister the tomatoes in batches. Use your largest skillet and make sure there are space between the tomatoes. If not, blister the tomatoes in 2 batches!
  • Don’t touch the tomatoes for the first minute of cooking. This lets the tomatoes get perfectly blackened on one side. Then shake the pan during the rest of cooking so they are cooked on all sides.
Cherry tomato pasta

Use a short pasta shape

You can use any type of pasta for this cherry tomato pasta. But we prefer using short cuts. Why? The tomatoes can get lost in long pasta because it all clumps together. Short cut pasta makes it easier to get tomatoes and pasta in every bite. Here are some of the pasta shapes we recommend here:

  • Orecchiette: This is the pasta shape shown here! It means “little ears” in Italian, and it has a fun, unique shape.
  • Penne: Penne is easy to find and works well.
  • Rigatoni: This tublar pasta shape is another favorite of ours.
  • Cavatappi: Cork-screw shaped pasta would be great here.
  • Shells: If you can’t find orecchiette, small or medium shells are a good substitute.

How to cook perfectly al dente cherry tomato pasta

No pressure, but making perfectly al dente pasta is the key to this recipe! Cherry tomato pasta is only great if your pasta has just the right chewy bite. In fact, al dente means “to the bite” in Italian. The ideal texture is a tender exterior, balanced by a firm bite with a fleck of white at its core. Here are our tips on how to cook pasta to al dente:

  • Taste often. Do not trust the package instructions! While cooking, check pasta continually for doneness. Many package instructions have inaccurate timing.
  • Look for a small white fleck. Drain the pasta as soon as the pasta has a tender exterior but a fleck of white at its core! Even a few seconds can be the difference between al dente and limp noodles.
  • Remember to reserve some pasta water! In this recipe, you’ll need a little pasta water before you drain. See below!
Cherry tomato pasta

Use pasta water to deglaze the pan

A trick from the Italians: reserve pasta water from boiling your pasta and use it to create a sauce! This technique is crucial in Italian cuisine: the starchy water from cooking the pasta makes the best loose sauces. (It’s the key to this Creamy White Sauce Pasta and Pesto Pasta.) Here’s what to know about using this technique in this cherry tomato pasta recipe:

  • Pull out the pasta water with a liquid measuring cup before draining. It’s easy to forget, actually. (We do it all the time!) Get out your liquid measuring cup in advance and place it on the counter right next to the pan as a memory jogger.
  • Use the pasta water to deglaze the pan juices. You’ll saute garlic in the same pan as the blistered tomatoes, then pour in a little water to deglaze all the pan juices. (You could use white wine for this part if you wanted to be fancy.)

What to serve with cherry tomato pasta

And that’s it: all the tips you need to make a killer cherry tomato pasta! When it comes to serving this pasta as a meal, it needs a little plant-based protein to round it out if you’re going vegetarian. Of course, it would be a fantastic side dish for broiled salmon or grilled fish. If you want a meatless meal, here’s what we’d recommend:

Cherry tomato pasta

This cherry tomato pasta recipe is…

Vegetarian.

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Cherry tomato pasta

Cherry Tomato Pasta


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 3 to 4 servings 1x

Description

This cherry tomato pasta pairs sweet tomatoes blistered in a hot pan with fresh basil and Parmesan. An easy dinner idea that’s simply stunning!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 8 ounces short pasta (penne, rigatoni, orecchiette (shown here), shells, cavatappi, etc)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 pints whole cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • ¼ cup pasta water
  • 1 handful fresh small basil leaves, chopped if large

Instructions

  1. Make the pasta: Start a pot of well salted water to a boil. Boil the pasta until it is just al dente. Start tasting a few minutes before the package recommends: you want it to be tender but still a little firm on the inside; usually around 7 to 8 minutes. Before draining, reserve some pasta water with a liquid measuring cup (at least ¼ cup). Drain the pasta.
  2. Blister the tomatoes: Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a very large heavy skillet over medium high heat. Once hot, add the tomatoes, making sure there is space around each tomato (they are not touching) and the pan is not crowded. If you’re using a medium pan, cook the tomatoes in 2 batches.* Cook for 1 minute without touching the pan, then 2 to 3 more minutes until blistered, shaking the pan several times to rotate the tomatoes. Turn off the heat and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar, gently shaking several times to coat. Add 2 pinches kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Remove the tomatoes from the pan to a bowl.
  3. Finish the dish: Mince the garlic. Once the pasta is done, in the same pan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium low heat. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute until fragrant. Deglaze the pan with ¼ cup pasta water, scraping the pan with a spoon to release all of the flavor of the tomato juices. Turn off the heat.
  4. Add the pasta to the pan and toss to coat. Add the blistered tomatoes, ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, and basil. Season with 2 pinches of kosher salt and lots of fresh ground pepper. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Serve with the remaining ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

Notes

*If the pan is too crowded, the tomatoes will steam instead of blistering. It all depends on the size of your pan: if you’re using a medium pan, you’ll have to cook 1 pint at a time.

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Keywords: Cherry tomato pasta

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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8 Comments

  1. Hi. I can’t eat garlic. Could I substitute my garlic olive oil ( allowed on my low FODMAP diet) for the balsamic? Just learning to use fresh basil which I’m growing. TY

    1. Hi! This should work — you might want just a sprinkle of balsamic, lemon juice or white wine vinegar at the end if it needs a little brightening.

  2. Awesome — will make this again later this week since I have three cherry tomato plants that are producing like crazy. Very tasty — whole family loved it

  3. A lovely, simple recipe. You actually don’t need to go through the hassle of removing the tomatoes to cook the garlic or making the pasta first and reserving the water; you just need to time everything correctly. This is how I do it: Purposely set your timer on your pasta for 2-3 minutes less than al-dente once it goes in. Then get your sautee pan for the tomatoes hot (and hopefully right next to your pasta boiling pot). When you have 5 minutes left on your pasta, at 4 minutes left, add the oil; between 4 and 3 minutes left, put the tomatoes into your hot pan. When you have about 30 seconds left on your pasta, add the garlic so it doesn’t burn. I didn’t even bother chopping it, just smashed it and added in for garlic flavor. Then add the balsamic vinegar to deglaze, toss everything around, and now your pasta is ready. Ladle the pasta water straight from the pot, and using a spider, just scoop out the pasta straight into your pan. Add basil, salt, pepper, and cheese (I also added a pat of butter at the end for some more richness). If it’s too dry or the pasta isn’t quite al-dente, just ladle a bit more water and let the pasta keep cooking in the sautee pan.

  4. I think that you can put the asparagus in this dish instead of making a separate dish of asparagus. Cut asparagus on the bias in 2″ pieces. Cook in the frying pan with oil or butter until it begins to soften. Remove from pan and set aside. Cook the tomatoes and other ingredients, then add the asparagus and warm. Serve.

  5. Sonja & Alex,
    Oh my goodness, I made this Cherry Tomato Pasta for supper tonight.
    Cherry tomatoes and basil from my garden.
    It was delicious and now a favorite.
    The balsamic vinegar put the flavor over the top!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Cynthia