A simple vegetarian recipe for pasta with cherry tomatoes and garlic with chili flakes, lemon zest and fresh basil. This is easy weeknight dinner is ready in 20 minutes and will be a hit.
There are few things I love more than a big bowl of pasta. And this recipe, with cherry tomatoes slow cooked in olive oil so that they become sweet and jammy, is one of those perfect bowls of pasta you will want to eat over and over again.
With loads of garlic, zippy lemon zest and chili flakes, and finally finished off with fresh basil, this dish tastes like summer. Even in the middle of winter.
The flavour gets developed for slowly sautéing garlic, chili flakes and lemon zest. This creates a flavourful oil which becomes the base of the sauce, and what we cook the cherry tomatoes in. (If you want to try a different technique, you could also roast cherry tomatoes and toss them with pasta, for an equally delicious pasta dish).
I like to sauté half of the lemon zest in the olive oil at the beginning and save the other half to add at the end.
This creates a complex flavour in the finished dish that is both sweet, bright with a touch of bitter.
Cherry tomatoes are an ingredient that I always have in my fridge. They are great for adding to salads, or roasting with gnocchi in the oven–they also make a quick and delicious afternoon snack.
When I was in Italy a few years ago what struck me the most in the dishes that I ordered at restaurants was the simplicity of them; the individual ingredients really shone. You could tell everything that was in a dish and why.
As a cook, I found that incredibly inspiring, and that’s what lead me to create this easy pasta recipe.
How to create a velvety cherry tomato pasta sauce
The trick to creating a velvety smooth, restaurant-worthy pasta sauce has two steps. First of all, you should use more olive oil than you think. Always add an extra splash or two, you won’t regret it.
The second trick is to save some of your pasta water before draining your pasta. After all Martha Stewart says pasta water is the secret to superior sauce. This is because pasta water is loaded with leftover starch from your pasta.
Adding the starchy water to your sauce acts as a binder and thickener. I like to use tongs to scoop my pasta directly from its cooking water into the pan with the cherry tomatoes; this transfers some of the starchy water at the same time..
If you’re wondering what to do with a bunch of cherry tomatoes, look no further.
Pasta with cherry tomatoes and garlic
- 3/4 lb 340g linguine, reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/2 tsp chili flakes
- 1 lemon, zest only
- 2 pints of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced basil
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water.
- Heat a large saute pan over medium heat, add olive oil, garlic, chili and half of the lemon zest. Cook for about 4 minutes or until garlic starts to turn golden brown and oil has a yellowy-orange hue. Reduce heat to low, add cherry tomatoes and salt, cook for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally until tomatoes are blistered, have softened and are starting to become jammy.
- Add pasta to tomatoes, add reserved pasta water, 1/4 cup at a time until sauce coats the pasta (you may not need all the pasta water). Toss with remaining lemon zest, basil and parmesan cheese and serve.
Let me know if you give this recipe for pasta with cherry tomatoes and garlic a try in the comments below.