20-Minute Burst Cherry Tomato Pasta

published Aug 12, 2023
Pantry Pasta
20-Minute Burst Cherry Tomato Pasta Recipe

Cherry tomatoes release their juices in a hot skillet to create a bright, fresh sauce that's rounded out with garlic and basil for your favorite pasta.


Prep5 minutes

Cook15 minutes

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ricotta, cheese, mini shell noodles, basil, cherry tomatoes, bowl of pasta, clumps of cheese
Credit: Kelli Foster

Pantry Pasta is Sheela Prakash‘s monthly column of easy, accessible pasta recipes. You’ll discover a new, inspired recipe each month that takes advantage of grocery staples and highlights one pantry hero. Follow along and grab all the recipes here.

While it’s hard to beat a peak-summer heirloom tomato, cherry tomatoes are actually my preferred variety. They’re endlessly versatile and candy-sweet in the summer (and honestly, not half bad in the off season from the grocery store). 

Since June, I’ve been carrying pints home from the farmers market every week to snack on and toss into salads, but more often than not, I am making this pasta. It’s exactly what I crave this time of year — a bright combination of garlicky tomatoes and basil that’s light and fresh yet can be made just cozy enough, thanks to an optional (but highly recommended) garnish of creamy burrata cheese

Credit: Kelli Foster

The Quickest Summer Pasta

This pasta doesn’t strive to be showy, which is exactly why it’s so perfect. It leans on the Italian mentality of keeping things simple to allow in-season produce to shine. Although if you get a craving for sun-kissed summer flavor in the middle of January, out-of-season cherry tomatoes sweeten in a fiery skillet beautifully too. For now, enjoy the good stuff. The tomatoes burst in the hot pan and their juices create a vibrant sauce that’s bolstered by olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes. 

While any pasta shape works, I prefer short varieties for easier eating. Orecchiette is my absolute favorite because they act like little cups that catch and hold the tomatoes and sauce. Torn burrata gilds the lily here and really makes each bowl special. Feel free to leave it out if you’re vegan or dairy-free, or garnish with grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese instead. Oh, and if you have a nice bottle of extra-virgin olive oil, break it out to use for the generous finishing drizzle.

20-Minute Burst Cherry Tomato Pasta Recipe

Cherry tomatoes release their juices in a hot skillet to create a bright, fresh sauce that's rounded out with garlic and basil for your favorite pasta.

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 4

    cloves garlic

  • 4

    large sprigs fresh basil

  • 1/4 cup

    olive oil, plus more for serving

  • 3 pints

    cherry tomatoes (30 ounces or about 6 cups)

  • 12 ounces

    dried pasta

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons

    kosher salt, plus more for the pasta water and seasoning

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes

  • 8 ounces

    burrata cheese (optional)


  1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, thinly slice 4 garlic cloves. Pick the leaves from 4 large fresh basil sprigs until you have 1 loosely packed cup.

  2. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions for 1 minute less than al dente. Meanwhile, start the sauce.

  3. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the garlic, tomatoes, 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes burst and just start to release their juices, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

  4. When the pasta is ready, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Drain the pasta. Coarsely chop or tear the basil leaves.

  5. Add the pasta water to the skillet and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the pasta and toss continuously until the sauce thickens a bit and coats the pasta, and the pasta is al dente, about 1 minute.

  6. Remove the pan from the heat. Add half of the basil and toss to combine. Taste and season with more kosher salt as needed. Transfer to individual shallow bowls or plates. If using burrata cheese, tear 8 ounces into large pieces and divide it among each serving. Serve garnished with a drizzle of olive oil and the remaining basil.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.