Looking for a quick and tasty warm-weather dinner? Summer Pasta is bursting with fresh cherry tomatoes, torn basil leaves and mozzarella cheese. This is a favorite old recipe of mine, and a handy one to have in your back pocket for a delicious main or side dish.
Easy pasta recipes are REALLY nice to have on hand, year-round. After all, they hold well at room temperature, are super flexible, and can feed a few or a crowd. The star of the show in this Summer Pasta recipe is ripe, flavorful cherry tomatoes that are practically bursting off the vine right now.
Here’s a few more reasons to love it:
- Summer Pasta is an easy and versatile for dinner alongside Strawberry Asparagus Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette, Shrimp Salad with Lemon Ranch Dressing, or even Roasted Spring Vegetables with Vinaigrette.
- You can also serve this as a side dish with grilled chicken or shrimp to round out your menu
- Cherry tomatoes are a summer staple and easy to find at Farmer’s Markets and most grocery stores. Any variety will work!
Ingredients You’ll Need for this Recipe
- Olive Oil: I love a good, fruity extra virgin olive oil to lightly cook the shallots, and also to finish the pasta right before serving.
- Shallot: Mild and almost sweet, shallots are great to use when you just need a few tablespoons of an onion
- Cherry Tomatoes: Any variety will work, and a mixture of colors is especially pretty
- Seasonings: The usual suspects – salt, pepper, red pepper flakes plus a little lemon juice and butter too.
- Basil: Big, fresh, fragrant leaves for tearing and tossing with the warm tomatoes and pasta.
- Mozzarrella Cheese: I like little balls of mild and creamy fresh mozzarella cheese that comes in a small tub with water (whey, actually) in the cheese section of most grocery stores.
- Spaghetti: Fresh or dried, you’ll need about 5 cups cooked.
Tips for Choosing Pasta
- There’s no wrong choice of pasta, but a long variety like spaghetti is a great match for this tomato sauce.
- I used a fresh variety of spaghetti pasta that’s refrigerated and available in most grocery stores, but dried spaghetti is great too.
- Here’s a little How Much Pasta? guide I stumbled on if you’re interested in scaling this recipe up. This is handy to have if you’re up at night wondering about pasta portion sizes 🙂
Step-by-Step Instructions for this Recipe
- Put the olive oil and shallots in a large, non-stick saute pan and cook a few minutes until shallots are soft.
- Add the cherry tomatoes and continue cooking until they break down a bit and release their juices, about 5 minutes.
- The seasonings come next – salt, pepper, red pepper flakes. Continue cooking on medium-high heat another 5 minutes or so.
- Add the fresh lemon juice and butter, then keep the sauce warm while you cook the pasta.
- Cook pasta according to the package directions. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water before draining and adding to the tomato sauce. Use tongs to combine, and add a bit of the pasta water if needed to loosen the mixture up.
- Add the basil leaves and mozzarella, plus a bit more salt and pepper, toss to combine.
- Divide on four plates, drizzle more olive oil on top for serving!
Tips for Making Fresh Tomato Sauce
I’ll tell you right now the thing that makes this Summer Pasta so wonderfully juicy, slurpy and tasty is the big, chunky tomato sauce you make fresh as the base.
This technique came to me years ago from a generous co-worker, and I admit I didn’t really believe it was possible. Up to that point, all the tomato sauce in my life up came out of a glass jar with a label on it, so I couldn’t WAIT to make it from scratch.
Here’s some tips for making it:
- Get the freshest tomatoes you can find. Farmers Markets and well-stocked grocery stores are a good place to start. Any variety will work, and the more colorful, the better!
- Cut the tomatoes in half or quarters if large, then add to a large non-stick saute pan with shallots that have been cooked in a little olive oil.
- It doesn’t look like there’s ANY WAY this will turn into sauce at this point, but it will – I promise.
- Cook the tomatoes on medium-high heat, and be patient – they’ll slowly break down and get much juicier.
- Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and some red pepper flakes, then finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a tablespoon of butter – don’t skip this part, it makes a huge difference in the final flavor.
Recipe Tips and Serving Ideas
- Good news! This is a highly forgiving recipe, meaning we-don’t-have-to-measure-every-little-thing-perfectly-for-this-pasta.
- Leftovers of Summer Pasta are SO GOOD you’ll find yourself making more just to have it for lunch the next day.
- Serve this as a side dish alongside grilled fish or chicken! It pairs really well with lots of different menus, and everyone always loves it.
More Recipes To Try:
If you’ve tried Summer Pasta or any other recipe on Studio Delicious, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
- 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
- 3 tablespoons Shallot, diced
- 4 cups Cherry Tomatoes, cut in half
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Pepper, freshly ground
- 1/8 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
- 1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
- 1 tablespoon Butter, unsalted
- 3 tablespoons Basil, fresh, torn in small pieces
- 1 cup Mozzarella, fresh, torn in pieces
- 9 ounce Spaghetti, fresh or dried, about 5 cups cooked
- Olive Oil, for serving
- Add the olive oil and diced shallot to a large non-stick saute pan and cook on medium-high heat until soft, 3-5 minutes. Then add the cherry tomatoes and gently stir to combineCook until the tomatoes break down and release their juices, about 4-5 minutes.
- Add the salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Continue to cook on medium-high heat until the mixture is soft and juicy, another 5-7 minutes. Add the lemon juice and butter, and stir gently to combine. Continue cooking for another minute or two. Keep the sauce warm with a lid on the saute pan on very low heat.
- Cook pasta according package directions, adding a generous teaspoon of salt to the water before adding the pasta. Before draining, reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water and set it aside to loosen up the pasta and sauce once you combine them together. Add the drained pasta to the saute pan with the tomato sauce, adding a little pasta water as needed. Gently toss everything together until combined. Remove the pan from the stove. Add the torn mozzarella and fresh basil leaves and a pinch more salt and pepper. Divide on four plates and drizzle olive oil on top for serving.
- My everyday salt is Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt. I buy a big box and keep what I need in a small canning jar in the cupboard.
- Fresh, refrigerated pasta works great in this recipe, but any long variety of dried pasta works well too.
- Leftovers are VERY good cold or reheated for lunch the next day 🙂
- I love to serve this alongside salmon or other grilled fish, a chicken breast or add cooked shrimp to the pasta for a twist!
- Super important to read the whole recipe before you begin
- Pay attention to the ingredient list and photos for the recipe
- If possible, prep your ingredients a little before you start
- Always use a sharp knife for safety
- Use the size of pan called for in the recipe
- For savory recipes, taste and season as you go
- Buy fresh, organic ingredients, locally sourced whenever possible
This recipe was published in August 2019, and updated with new photos and content August 2020