Pasta With 10-Minute Tomato Sauce

February 25, 2022
7 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten. prop styling by Gerri Williams, food styling by Anna Billingskog
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 10 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

For the fastest, most richly flavored tomato sauce, turn to three different types of tomatoes. Tomato paste brings deep, concentrated tomato flavor, sun-dried tomatoes bring sweet umami, and canned cherry tomatoes bring a ripe juiciness and pleasing texture from their soft, thin skins. Caramelizing each type in butter intensifies their flavor even more. No onion or garlic is needed here: This sauce is all about pure, vibrant tomato flavor. You can use this sauce in various ways, but my favorite? Pasta and Parmesan. The thick, glossy sauce clings beautifully to any type of pasta, but a tube shape, like rigatoni, is especially nice. It's a ridiculously easy, deeply satisfying dinner that can be made anytime of year, with one of the best effort to reward ratios I've found.

If you’ve never cooked with canned cherry tomatoes, they’re definitely worth seeking out. They have an ultra-sweet, straight-off-the-vine flavor compared to other types of canned tomatoes, and they break down quickly and evenly in sauces. And fortunately, they’re becoming much easier to find. I buy Mutti brand at my neighborhood Safeway in Northern Virginia, and you’ll likely spot them at any Italian grocer or market. They’re also sold via various online retailers, either individually or in bulk.

If you can’t find canned cherry tomatoes, substitute an equal volume of canned finely chopped tomatoes (with their juices), such as Mutti or Pomi brand. Avoid diced tomatoes: Since most are packed in calcium chloride, the chunks of tomatoes will retain their shape and won’t break down well in the sauce. —EmilyC

Test Kitchen Notes

It's the end of the long workday (or the start of an extra-long week) and we're hungry. Like, "can't-think-straight" hungry. Luckily, Food52 contributor EmilyC wants to do all the thinking for us. In Dinner's Ready, her twice-a-month column on weeknight wonders, Emily shares simple, flavor-packed recipes that'll have a good meal on the table in no time. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 1 pound rigatoni, penne, or your favorite pasta (use ¾ pound pasta for a saucier version)
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (preferably double-concentrated)
  • 1/4 cup (45 grams) sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, plus 1 tablespoon oil from the jar
  • 1 (14-ounce) can cherry tomatoes (such as Mutti or Cento brand)
  • 3 pinches Calabrian or red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • Finely grated Parmesan, for serving
  1. In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add the pasta and 2 tablespoons of the salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente according to the package directions. Reserve ½ cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.
  2. When the water is close to a boil, start the sauce. In a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the tomato paste, stirring to integrate into the butter, and cook for about 2 minutes, until the paste turns a shade darker.
  3. Finely chop the sun-dried tomatoes and add to the pan, along with the tomato oil. (Tip: Use kitchen scissors to snip the tomatoes into small pieces in the pan to avoid dirtying a cutting board.) Cook for about 1 minute more, until the tomatoes are lightly toasted.
  4. Add the cherry tomatoes (with their juices), Calabrian flakes, and a few pinches of salt. Using the back of a spoon, gently smash the cherry tomatoes to release their juices. Reduce the heat, if needed, to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes, until the cherry tomatoes break down and form a thick, glossy sauce. Season with salt to taste, and more Calabrian flakes (if desired) until you get the balance you like. (If the sauce is done before the pasta, turn down the heat to the lowest setting to keep warm.)
  5. Add the pasta and about ¼ cup of the reserved cooking water to the sauce and cook over low heat, tossing well to integrate and adding a bit more pasta water if needed to thin the sauce.
  6. Divide the pasta among plates. Top with the Parmesan.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Taylor Stanton
    Taylor Stanton
  • EmilyC

Recipe by: EmilyC

I'm a home cook. I love salads. Two things you'll always find in my refrigerator are lemons and butter, and in my pantry good quality chocolate and the makings for chocolate chip cookies.

2 Reviews

Taylor S. May 10, 2022
This is, quite frankly, the best pasta I’ve ever had in my life. The canned cherry tomatoes are a must. I would my life with this pasta.
EmilyC May 11, 2022
Ah what a lovely comment to receive -- thanks so much, Taylor!!