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.