Simple Cherry Tomato Pasta
This is an updated post from the Macheesmo archives.
Sometimes the only thing I want for dinner is a really good plate of pasta. Maybe it’s the 1/4 Italian running through my veins but if I don’t get a big plate of pasta once a week, I get pretty cranky.
I usually don’t do anything too fancy with the pasta, but one thing that I haven’t done in a very long time is use a jarred sauce. To me, they are always a bit sugary and gloopy and not even that flavorful. So I usually skip the jars and make my own sauce with canned tomatoes.
But hey. It’s summertime so I try to use fresh tomatoes these days. Of course the traditional way to make sauce is to buy large tomatoes, peel them, cook them down for hours, and flavor them with all kinds of spices.
I like that method just fine, but I don’t always have time for that business. This is the way to cheat at tomato sauce by using cherry tomatoes!
1) Get a large pot of boiling salted water going for the pasta.
2) Mince the garlic and chop the onion and basil.
3) In a large, wide pan add the olive oil over medium high heat along with the cherry tomatoes. Cook until they start to blister and burst.
4) Add the onions, garlic, and season with a little salt and pepper.
5) Cook for 10-15 minutes until tomatoes start to break down. Use a fork or a spatula to mush the tomatoes down even further.
6) Add a pinch of salt and pepper along with any other spices you might want and let the tomato sauce continue to simmer until thick, about 15-20 more minutes. Stir occasionally.
7) Start cooking pasta when sauce is pretty thick.
8) Add white wine and use the extra liquid to scrape up any bits of sauce stuck to the pan. Add basil as well and stir to combine. Turn heat down to low. If sauce gets too thick at this point, add a bit of pasta water to the sauce.
9) When pasta is done, pull it out with tongs and add it to the sauce immediately. Don’t drain the pasta.
10) Stir pasta in with sauce and serve immediately with parmesan cheese.
Starting the sauce
Even though it’s made from scratch, this is really a lazy man’s pasta sauce. I start by just blistering the tomatoes in some olive oil.
I like to use a big skillet for this with high sides. I’ve made this dish in a huge variety of pans including a dutch oven. Whatever you have will probably work, but wider surface area the better because that ensures that the tomatoes aren’t piled on top of each other.
Once your tomatoes start to blister a bit you can add in the onions and garlic. A pinch of salt and pepper wouldn’t hurt!
They’ll sizzle and pop and smell good. Eventually they’ll start to kind of wilt and give up. This is when you can get aggressive and take a fork or spatula and start mushing them to bits. This part is more fun than it is work in my opinion.
NOTE: For those of you concerned about the skins or seeds or tiny cores in the tomatoes, it’s really nothing to be worried about. You can barely even see them in the final product and the skins give a little texture to the dish which I find kind of nice actually. If you’re going to peel and core the tomatoes though, by all means, use larger tomatoes.
Anyway, this is after about 10 minutes of cooking:
Turn the heat down to medium, add any extra spices you like (I like red pepper flakes) and let this simmer and reduce until it forms a pretty solid paste. Now would be a good time to hit it with some salt and pepper also.
You’ll want to stir this every once in awhile, but it’s far from high maintenance.
Once you get it all reduced down, I would start cooking my pasta (your salted water should be boiling already dude).
As your pasta cooks, you want to add some flavor BACK into the tomatoes. So add your white wine and use the liquid to scrape up any little bits that are in the pan. Also add the huge amount of chopped basil!
Stir this all together and turn the heat down to low on the sauce. The white wine should evaporate pretty quickly.
Hopefully, your pasta is ready now. If it’s not and your sauce is getting dry then you might want to add a 1/4 Cup of pasta water (just scoop it out) to the sauce. This will thin it a bit but also add some starch to the sauce which will actually help out it’s ending texture/flavor.
When Your Pasta is Done
Just use some tongs to yank the pasta from the water and add it directly to the sauce. Pasta water should be dripping from the pasta. It’s all good.
Once you get all your pasta in the pot give it a good stir and you’re ready to go!
I serve this cherry tomato spaghetti with a good bit of grated parmesan cheese, some fresh cracked black pepper, and maybe a side salad.
So, if you’ve been timing this recipe you might notice that the pasta sauce itself does need to simmer for probably 35-45 minutes. So I’m not sure that I’d categorize this as a completely “quick” recipe, but the good news is that it requires very little chopping and very little monitoring.
The ending sauce is light yet really flavorful and has a great texture.
If you have a pasta fetish like me, this is a great summer option.