I can eat sweet summer cherry tomatoes right out of the bowl like candy, but even I find myself with a surplus sometimes that needs using up. This easy burst cherry tomato sauce puts them beautifully to the task, flavoring the tomatoes simply with olive oil, garlic and basil. The result is a sweet, luscious sauce that’s amazing by itself with pasta, or delicious anywhere you need tomato sauce. So if you’re wondering what to do with extra cherry tomatoes, look no further!
To make this burst cherry tomato sauce, I employed many of the same principles used in my 30-minute fresh tomato marinara. A couple of easy tricks mean this sauce can be on the table in just about 30 minutes too:
- Use a wide, shallow pan to encourage rapid evaporation of excess liquid, so that the sauce can thicken quickly.
- Be at peace with tomato peels and seeds. Especially when it comes to delicate little grape tomatoes, you’ll hardly notice them in the end result and your prep time will be about 5 times as long if you try to remove them.
- Skip the onions, peppers, spices and other condiments and focus on cooking techniques that let the tomato and garlic flavor shine. You won’t miss those extra things and you’ll be rewarded with a rich, buttery, surprisingly complex flavored sauce.
Some burst cherry tomato sauce recipes call for leaving the cherry tomatoes whole and blistering them in the skillet until they literally burst open on their own. I take a more pragmatic approach and halve mine so that the juices can get to cooking and thickening right away, speeding up the process even further. The resultant sauce is also a little “saucier” this way which makes it more versatile for things like pizza, vegan lasagna, et al. instead of being limited to serving it with pasta.
It’s an optional step, but when I was getting ready to use it in lasagna I took an immersion blender and pureed my cherry tomato sauce after cooking it for a smooth finish with body. This sauce is great for freezing. I’m not experienced with canning but I imagine it would work great for that too! You could also make a roasted version and just quickly hit roasted cherry tomatoes into the pan with the olive oil and garlic before using the sauce.
Simple Burst Cherry Tomato Sauce
For the burst cherry tomato sauce:
To make burst cherry tomato pasta:
- 12 oz dry pasta of choice
- burst cherry tomato sauce (above)
- hemp seed parmesan (optional, for serving)
- sliced fresh basil and red pepper flakes (optional, for serving)
For the burst cherry tomato sauce:
- Warm the olive oil over medium heat in a large, wide skillet (I recommend cast iron). When warm, add the garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 45 seconds or just until the smallest bits of garlic start to slightly brown. Immediately add the halved cherry tomatoes to the skillet and stir well.
- Reduce the heat slightly. Add the whole sprigs of fresh basil to the pan along with a sprinkle of salt. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until the cherry tomatoes have released their juices, softened, and the sauce has thickened such that it's beginning to cling to the pan. Remove from the heat, remove the basil sprigs, salt to taste, and serve or store.
To make simple burst cherry tomato pasta:
- While cooking the tomato sauce, cook the dry pasta to al dente according to package instructions. Drain and do not rinse the pasta, reserving 2 tablespoons of cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the pan with the warm sauce along with the reserved cooking liquid, and stir to combine. Cook over low heat just until everything is hot and the sauce clings to the pasta.
- Serve with fresh basil, red pepper flakes and hemp seed parmesan if desired.
Burst cherry tomato sauce serving suggestions (the photos are links):