Speedy Cherry Tomato Sauce

By Ann Fulton

This quick and easy sauce is a versatile summertime staple and a delicious way to use an abundance of cherry or grape tomatoes. It will even make the most of off-season cherry tomatoes. 
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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. 
 
This quick and easy sauce is a versatile summertime staple and a delicious way to use an abundance of cherry or grape tomatoes. It will even make the most of off-season cherry tomatoes. 

This rustic sauce is an ideal way to use an abundance of seasonal cherry or grape tomatoes. It will also make the most of grocery store cherry tomatoes, which are available year round.

This quick and easy sauce is a versatile summertime staple and a delicious way to use an abundance of cherry or grape tomatoes. It will even make the most of off-season cherry tomatoes. 

After briefly sautéing the garlic, the tomatoes are added.

This quick and easy sauce is a versatile summertime staple and a delicious way to use an abundance of cherry or grape tomatoes. It will even make the most of off-season cherry tomatoes. 

The flavorful sauce needs only the simplest of seasonings.

This quick and easy sauce is a versatile summertime staple and a delicious way to use an abundance of cherry or grape tomatoes. It will even make the most of off-season cherry tomatoes. 

Pressing on the tomatoes with a fork encourages them to break down and turn into sauce more quickly.

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. 

Basil adds fresh flavor and color, but if you don’t have any, you could use a half teaspoon of dried Italian seasoning or oregano.

This 2013 photo shows a batch of the sauce made with grape tomatoes, which have a higher ratio of skin to pulp (meaning less moisture). The sauce will look slightly different depending on variety of tomato used and precise simmer time–but will always taste delicious! 

Speedy Cherry Tomato Sauce
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 4 - 6 servings; approximately 20 ounces of cooked sauce
When cherry tomatoes are plentiful, I adore this quick-cooking chunky sauce on pizza, pasta, roasted eggplant, or by the spoonful! Don't hesitate to get creative and use it over rice, quinoa, and/or sautéed zucchini. The flavors are even better the second day, so feel free to prepare in advance. If making ahead, sprinkle the basil on just before serving to retain its bright green color.
Ingredients:
  • ¼ cup (56ml) olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups cherry tomatoes*, halved or quartered if large (2 pints or 1 quart)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
If serving with pasta:
  • 12-16 ounces** fusilli, rotini, penne, or other short spiral or tubular pasta, cooked according to package directions (reserve a cup of pasta cooking water)
  • 1 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, diced (about 8 ounces) or freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano to taste
Instructions:
  1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté 1 minute or until fragrant but not turning brown.
  2. Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, and sugar. As the tomatoes cook and soften, mash them with a fork to help them form a chunky, rustic sauce. Cook the tomatoes for approximately 5-6 minutes or until the tomatoes have broken down and the juices are incorporated.
  3. Sprinkle with torn basil before serving.
  4. If serving with pasta, transfer the tomato sauce to a bowl with the pasta, and toss to combine.
  5. Stir in the mozzarella, if using, and add the reserved pasta water, ¼ cup at a time, until the pasta is moist. Optionally, you may grate cheese of choice over the finished pasta. Garnish with additional basil, if desired.
Notes:

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.

 

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Recipe first posted August 2013.

 

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Comments

  1. Patricia

    Made this tonight. Totally awesome! My hubby loved it.
    Will now be my easy last minute meal. May try adding shrimp
    to the mix.

    Reply
  2. Beth Grant

    Looks amazing. Never know what to do with aaall those cherry tomatoes. But they’re so sweet! Ty! Great idea! Trying this weekend. Love the sausage pork or other options for flavor quality and bulk. Bon appetite!!

    Reply
  3. Lori

    Wow this sauce is delicious. I served it over spiralized zucchini with mushrooms and grilled chicken and topped with fresh grated Parmesan cheese

    Reply
  4. Cheryl

    I took your recipe and added Italian seasoning, cooking white wine and some flour to thicken the sauce just a bit. It’s smells absolutely divine! Can’t wait to use it with some fresh cooked zucchini!! Thanks for the recipe!!

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Debbie, I have frozen this sauce but haven’t canned it. It should be fine with high pressure canning, but tomatoes are borderline in terms of pH (and, therefore, food safety) with regular stovetop canning. I hope that helps!

      Reply
  5. Kathy

    I made this tonight and it was delicious. I had all the ingredients on hand. Picked some fresh basil from the garden and used angel hair pasta. It came together very quickly. I can’t wait for fresh tomatoes to start coming in. I’ll be making this a lot! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      So glad that you’ll be making again, Kathy…and it’s so nice to have fresh basil ready to pick again!

      Reply
  6. Carla

    Thank you for your recipe. I am really a beginner and many recipes require a lot which can be overwhelming. I love you for making it sweet, delicious, and easy. I added white rice with broccoli and I am extremely happy. Thank you XOXO

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      I’m so happy to read your comment, Carla, and to know that the recipe covered all those bases. Your addition of rice and broccoli sounds perfect!

      Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Linda, I’m delighted this was a hit! If memory serves, I froze this one time last summer with good results. I’ve also frozen the roasted cherry or grape tomatoes many times with great success.

      Reply
      1. Kasandra

        Great I have a ton of tomatoes to use I’m going to make a triple batch and freeze it for my huge very busy family

        Reply