Tomato Basil Pasta

4.67 from 6 votes

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If you’re looking for an easy recipe that puts big tomatoes to use, you have to try this tomato basil pasta. Instead of a knife, you can use a box grater to turn ripe tomatoes into a puree that you cook with garlic for sauce. No peeling is required. You can simmer the sauce on the stove and stir the pasta right in along with fresh basil leaves and grated Parmesan. This is a weeknight wonder that’s ready in about 20 minutes.

If you’re interested in a more traditional sauce recipe with fresh tomatoes, try this roma tomato sauce

Fresh tomato pasta with basil in a bowl.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

You don’t have to peel the tomatoes or dice them. Inspired by classic Spanish tomato bread, pan con tomate, I slice the bottom ends off the tomatoes and then puree them using the big holes of a box grater. Then you can skip peeling and dicing, which is what you typically have to do for homemade tomato sauce.

This is a quick & easy pasta recipe with fresh tomatoes. And you end up with a sauce where the prep is not that involved, and it simmers in 15 minutes or less. 

You can make the sauce in advance. There’s no rule that says you have to make the pasta at the same time as the sauce. Cook the sauce one day. Then the next day warm it on the stove, cook the pasta and add basil and Parmesan.

The sauce is freezable. Besides soup, tomato sauce is one of the most freezer-friendly recipes. Take advantage of that when it comes to meal planning and having options in your kitchen in those moments you think you have nothing for dinner.

The Ingredients

Ingredients including tomatoes, basil, spaghetti, garlic, basil, parmesan, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

This is what you need:

  • Pasta: My preference is to use long thin noodles like spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine, or bucatini. I do not recommend using angel hair because it will be too delicate for the sauce. You can substitute chickpea pasta or another gluten-free variety.
  • Tomatoes: This recipe is for medium to large-sized tomatoes that have a lot of flesh. You can use vine-ripened tomatoes or heirloom tomatoes. The most important thing is that they are ripe because they will have the best flavor. You deserve bonus points if you have farmer’s market tomatoes or homegrown ones.  
  • Basil: Keeping with the spirit of this minimal prep recipe, I don’t bother chopping the basil. The heat from the pasta will gently wilt it, and you will find leaves mixed throughout. If there are really big leaves in your bunch of basil, just tear them into smaller pieces. 
  • Garlic: The recipe calls for 5 cloves, minced. That may sound like a lot, but it gives the sauce a balanced amount of aromatic garlic. 
  • Balsamic vinegar might be unexpected in tomato sauce. Yes, tomatoes already have a nice amount of acid, but a tablespoon of vinegar enhances the overall sauce and gives it some much-needed sharpness and depth.
  • Parmesan: With the basil, I fold in grated Parmesan cheese. If you want the recipe to be vegan, then leave out the cheese and sprinkle on nutritional yeast to finish it.
  • Olive oil: For the best flavor, use high-quality extra virgin olive oil.
  • Red pepper flakes, salt & pepper season the dish. 

How To Make This Tomato Basil Pasta Recipe

1. Prep the tomatoes. Slice off the bottom ends. Grate the tomatoes on the the large holes of a box grater over a bowl. Discard the skins.

2. Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté the garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Give them 30 seconds to 1 minute to become fragrant.

Tomatoes being pureed with a box grater. Garlic and spices sautéing in olive oil in a skillet.

3. Pour in the tomatoes and balsamic vinegar and simmer the sauce. It will take 12-15 minutes for it to thicken.

4. Cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Follow the recommended cook time on the package and make sure it turns out al dente. You can do this while the sauce simmers. Save a half cup of pasta water before draining it.

Sauce simmer in a pan. Spaghetti cooking in a pot.

5. Stir the pasta and the reserved cooking water into the sauce. The starch from the water will help the tomatoes coat the noodles.

6. Fold in the basil leaves and Parmesan. Take the pan off the heat when you do this. Garnish the pasta with more grated cheese as you plate it.

Spaghetti stirred into tomato sauce in the pan. Basil and parmesan stirred into pasta.


You can serve this pasta dish with an Arugula Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette, a Classic House Salad or an Italian Chopped Salad. For a vegetable side dish, try Parmesan Roasted Zucchini. You can also enjoy it with a piece of bread that you can dip into the tomato sauce. 

Make-Ahead Tips, Leftovers & Storage

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge up to 3 days. Warm them in the microwave or in a skillet over medium heat on the stove. If you are planning to have leftovers, it’s best to only cook the amount of pasta you are going to eat at single meal. Spoon out the sauce you are going to save and reduce the amount of cooking water you stir in with the pasta since it will be less than the full recipe.

The tomato sauce (without the pasta) can be stored in the fridge up to 3 days or frozen for 1 month. Let it cool to room temperature before storing it. To make it easier to use for a single meal, portion out the sauce before you freeze it, so you don’t have to thaw it all at once.

To thaw frozen sauce, let it sit out at room temperature to melt and soften somewhat. Then warm it in a pan over low to medium heat, stirring frequently.

Recipe Tips

Use ripe tomatoes. The quality and condition of the tomatoes will impact the taste of the sauce. It’s ok to use tomatoes that have some blemishes and bruises, but if you make the recipe with underripe tomatoes, it won’t turn out as good.

Do not overcook the pasta. You want it to be al dente and to have a little bite, so it has the right consistency.

Taste the pasta before you serve it. Then you can add more salt or pepper if the sauce needs it. It’s a great idea to even taste the sauce before you add the pasta and see if you want to adjust the seasonings.

Pasta with fresh tomato sauce and basil on a plate.


Do the red pepper flakes make the sauce spicy?

The amount red pepper flakes in this recipe gives it a very subtle kick, but I wouldn’t call it spicy. You can reduce the amount if you’re sensitive to heat.

Is their a substitute for basil?

No other fresh herbs have the same distinct taste as basil. You can add a few spoonfuls of pesto to get that tomato-basil flavor. Do not substitute with dried basil.

Should you cook fresh basil in tomato sauce? 

You should wait to stir the basil when the pasta is ready. The heat will gently wilt the leaves while still preserving their flavor.

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Tomato Basil Pasta

4.67 from 6 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 20 minutes
Servings: 4
Ready in 20 minutes, the sauce for this fresh tomato basil pasta doesn’t any require peeling. It is a simple recipe that only has 10 ingredients.


  • 2 pounds medium to large ripe tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 8 ounces spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine or bucatini
  • 1 cup basil leaves larger ones torn
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan plus more for serving


  • Slice the bottom end off each of the tomatoes. Place a box grater over a bowl. Grate the tomatoes dragging the cut side down the large holes of the grater. Discard the skins once you have removed the flesh.
  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet or sauté pan over medium high heat. Sauté the garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper until they become fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  • Pour in the tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Simmer the sauce for 12-15 minutes until it thickens.
  • Cook the pasta in large pot of salted boiling water according to package instructions until just al dente. Drain reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking water. (You can make the pasta while the sauce is simmering).
  • With the sauce over medium heat, add the pasta and the reserved cooking water. Stir the spaghetti and sauce together, giving it 1-2 minutes to simmer and for the pasta to be fully coated in the sauce.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the basil and Parmesan.
  • Divide into a serving dish or onto plates and garnish with Parmesan.



To make the recipe vegan, leave out the cheese.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 3 days. Warm them in the microwave or in a skillet over medium heat on the stove. Make sure to let them cool to room temperature.
If you are planning to have leftovers, it’s best to only cook the pasta you are going to eat in a single meal. Spoon out some of the sauce and reduce the amount of cooking water you stir into the pasta depending what amount you’re going to serve.
The tomato sauce (without the pasta) can be stored in the fridge up to 3 days or frozen up to 1 month. To thaw it, let it sit out at room temperature to partially melt and soften. Then warm it over low to medium heat on the stove, stirring frequently.


Calories: 351kcal | Carbohydrates: 54g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 419mg | Potassium: 717mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 2298IU | Vitamin C: 33mg | Calcium: 110mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Pasta & Noodles
Cuisine: Italian
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Hi, I'm Paige.

Welcome to Last Ingredient where you will find simple seasonal recipes with plenty of fruits and vegetables, all for the home cook.

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