Pasta with Simple Tomato Sauce

Over 1300 posts acrosss ten years on Dinner: A Love Story, and somehow, not until today have I ever written up the most classic, most satisfying thing you can do with tomatoes this time of year: Make a fresh tomato sauce and toss with pasta. Do you even need a recipe so simple? I don’t know, but not giving it to you after all these years feels a little like I’ve handed you a bunch of jewelry to wear to the party, but never a black dress.

As you can imagine, this recipe is endlessly riff-able. You can add toasted pine nuts, you can stir in ricotta, you can dollop with burrata, switch out the Parm for Pecornio. You can obviously serve it with any kind of pasta, but I will say that orecchiette is the best because they’re like little pockets that scoop up the chunky tomatoes. Short pasta in general is a good idea, as is a crisp pan-fried gnocchi.

Pasta with Simple Fresh Tomato Sauce

16 ounces short pasta
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced (or more, to taste; we aren’t a huge garlic family)
1/2 small onion (or 1 shallot), minced
1/2 teaspoon Calabrian chili powder or red pepper flakes
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups tomatoes (any kind, but preferably ripe and sweet; here I used yellow and red cherry)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup basil, shredded or torn
optional: ricotta, burrata

Prepare pasta according to package directions. Strainer and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil while it’s in the colander. Place pasta pot back on stovetop over medium heat and add the remaining olive oil. Add garlic, onion, chili powder, salt, and pepper and cook until aromatic and wilted, about 3 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes with their juices and turn heat to medium-high. Cook for 10 to 30 minutes (the longer the better, to allow for more concentration, but 10 will do!) to allow for tomatoes to break down. Turn heat to low and add pasta back to pot. Stir in basil and cheese. Serve with more freshly ground pepper and dollops of ricotta or burrata if using.

P.S. For more simple dinner recipes like this one, check out my New York Times bestselling book The Weekday Vegetarians. Reminder: All the fun stuff these days happens in the Dinner: A Love Story newsletter on Substack, which is consistently in the Top 10 most-read food newsletters on the entire platform. You can subscribe here.

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Made it per the recipe and came out really good. Will try and add some meat next time. Thanks for another yummy recipe!


My family and I love your recipes, but this one was a mega hit with the kids. My 5 year old said, “this is the best noodles I’ve ever tasted in my whole life.”


One of our favorite summer dinners. Sometimes I will brown up some sausage coins, too. Sometimes I use gnocchi (then I do two pans so the gnocchi is ready just as the tomatoes are and it’s a quick gnocchi sear and toss with the tomatoes). Tomato season is the BEST.