A versatile summertime staple, this quick and easy sauce is a delicious way to use an abundance of cherry or grape tomatoes. It will even make the most of off-season cherry tomatoes.
This is the sort of easy summer cooking I love: basic, fresh ingredients coming together as something altogether pleasing in a few short minutes.
Although perfect over pasta–and I have included a simple, “every-night” recipe along with the sauce instructions below–this sauce is incredibly versatile.
You can use your imagination to create quick, flavorful meals based on what you enjoy. I’ve also included a few ways that we enjoy the recipe.
I particularly enjoy the rustic sauce served over roasted or grilled eggplant, zucchini, and mushrooms. In addition to traditional pasta, it pairs beautifully with zucchini noodles.
Or pick a grain of preference, be it quinoa or rice, and create your own alternative to the traditional pasta dinner. After cooking the grain, add the grilled or roasted veggies (even leftovers work well), stir in some of the chunky sauce, and add any other flavor boosters that may appeal. Mozzarella or feta cheese and Kalamata olives pair particularly well.
Speedy Cherry Tomato Sauce is also delicious as the sauce on this recipe for Deconstructed Eggplant Parmesan. Or go appetizer-style and use it as a condiment for bite-size (and addicting!) Crispy Baked Eggplant.
Versatile as it is, Speedy Cherry Tomato Sauce serves as an excellent springboard for Tuna in Rustic Tomato Sauce. It’s an easy, one-pan meal that can be modified with another variety of fish, or even shrimp or chopped chicken. Serve with crusty bread or break up the tuna and stir everything into hot cooked pasta.
Recipe tweaks I’ve made since first posting this recipe:
- Make it meaty. For variety, I occasionally start by first sautéing 12 ounces of sausage (turkey or pork), removing the cooked and crumbled sausage to a plate and then proceeding with the sauce recipe.
- When I don’t have fresh basil, I add ½ teaspoon of dried oregano or Italian seasoning along with the salt and pepper.
- For a super easy protein addition, I sometimes stir in a 5-ounce can of drained tuna at the end of the cooking time. I break up the tuna with a fork but keep it rather chunky.
- I’ve also added 2 thinly sliced shallots to the oil, cooking to soften, before adding the garlic. (More shallots would be good!) Then I toss in 12 ounces of cooked pasta, sprinkling with grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano to taste. A little reserved pasta water is nice to have on hand to loosen the pasta after it has been sitting a while.
- One more idea: A reader emailed me recently to say that she makes this sauce on repeat. When she has an abundance of zucchini from her garden she chops it and sautés it in olive oil until golden. (Higher heat and less stirring help to achieve this more quickly.) Then she removes the cooked zucchini to a plate, continues with the Speedy Cherry Tomato Sauce recipe, and stirs in the zucchini at the end. A sprinkle of crumbled feta would be lovely as well.
* I’ve also made this sauce with grape tomatoes and it’s excellent. They tend to have less moisture than cherry tomatoes, so the finished sauce will be slightly chunkier. ** Choose the amount of pasta based on whether you like your pasta extra saucy or not. I like a high ratio of sauce to pasta so use the lesser amount of pasta.
* I’ve also made this sauce with grape tomatoes and it’s excellent. They tend to have less moisture than cherry tomatoes, so the finished sauce will be slightly chunkier.
** Choose the amount of pasta based on whether you like your pasta extra saucy or not. I like a high ratio of sauce to pasta so use the lesser amount of pasta.
Recipe first posted August 2013.
I am a retired chef and I have never used a cherry tomato in any sauce. This year I planted too many cherry tomato plants. In an effort to make use of my bounty, I used your recipe but instead of cutting the tomatoes I simply pinched them over the compost bin in my kitchen and the seeds just fly out and the break down faster in the cooking. Used the leftover sauce the next day to make a creamed version for lobster ravioli. I am so happy to have new recipes for these sweet gems. Thank you!
Hi Sharon, I’m so happy you were able to make good use of your tomato supply with this recipe. Thanks so much for the thoughtful feedback…and lobster ravioli – yum!
can you can it
I have frozen the sauce with good success, Karen. The pH would be borderline for water bath canning. High pressure canning would definitely work.
I made this and while it was delicious I felt that there was too much olive oil. I did buy the fancy expensive kind thinking it would make it better and maybe that was my issue?
Will try again with less oil next time
Hi Sara, Thank you for your comment. I’ve found the amount of oil to be just right, but a thought – could the sauce have been cooked down a bit more? If it was watery, the oil may have separated and been more apparent. I’m glad you’ll be making again, and I’m happy to troubleshoot further if needed.
Any thoughts on how this sauce would do in lasagna?
I think this sauce would be great in lasagna, Alex. The flavor is quite good and you can cook it down to the precise thickness you like.
A quick and easy pasta sauce that comes together while your pasta is cooking is always a win in my books I did find it a little salty and I’m wondering if it’s because I used grape tomatoes instead of cherry tomatoes and therefore had less moisture to absorb the salt. Regardless, salt can be easily adjusted the next time and there will definitely be a next time.
Hi Jean, Thank you for your terrific feedback, including the mention regarding the salt. Your point about the lower moisture in grape tomatoes is a good one, and the flavor of the salt would also be more pronounced the further the sauce is reduced. One last thought is if you happened to use table salt instead of the coarser kosher salt, as the sodium in that is somewhat higher. Regardless, I’m delighted it’s a make-again recipe and that you can easily adjust to taste the next time.
Can I freeze the finished sauce and how long will it keep in the freezer. The recipe I tried was easy and tasted great.
Wade, I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe, and yes, you can freeze it for about three months. Longer than that, and it may get watery. If you do notice any wateriness, you can simmer it to thicken again.
Don’t you need to take the skins off the tomatoes?
No need, Jessica. The skins of the cherry and grape tomatoes cook down rather well and add texture, interest, and flavor to the sauce.
Looks delicious…I’m going to give it a go, right now!
FYI the photo shows the tomato sauce in a cast iron skillet. It’s never a good idea to cook something acidic, like tomatoes, in cast iron as it reacts with the metal and can cause the iron to leach into your food….not too terribly harmful but can add a metalic taste to food.
Thanks for the comment and I hope you enjoy! Coincidently, I just made a batch last night! The cast iron mention is a good one, and I’m glad you brought it up. It’s a bit of a myth that a cast iron pan can’t be used for tomato sauce. The key is that the pan is well seasoned. I regularly use my cast iron skillet for this sauce and there’s never a metallic taste. I wouldn’t store this or any other food in it, however. But truly, any pan will work!
I have used this recipe for two years now. It is the best! I freeze my cherry tomatoes every year. This recipe works great with frozen cherry tomatoes as well.
Hi Lynn, Not only do I love that this sauce has become a go-to for you, but I love that you freeze your cherry tomatoes. Why have I never done that? Thanks for your thoughtful comment and the very good idea!
I agree with all of the comments … in that I have loads of cherry tomatoes in the garden and was looking for a sauce recipe to use them with pasta. This is perfect, and I am going to make it tonight. Thank you!
Thanks for your comment, Tracey. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
Was looking for a way to cook an easy sauce and use the last of some cherry tomatoes. This turned out fantastic and I’m going to use as a pizza sauce tomorrow night. Thanks!!
Charlotte, I’m so happy you found this recipe and that it was a success. Enjoy the leftovers on your pizza. Yum!