This Penne with Tomatoes recipe has very few ingredients and comes together as fast as you can chop them up. If you can’t get in-season local tomatoes though, well, you’re just not going to be riding on cloud nine with me. This is one of my go-to summer recipes that works equally well for lunch, dinner, and cookouts.
Unfortunately, if your only option is grocery store ‘vine ripened’ tomatoes, you’re just out of luck here. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but those mealy things suck. I grew up eating the best tomatoes every summer in New Jersey. Nothing beats a fresh New Jersey tomato with salt and quality olive oil. At least, that’s what I used to think.
I don’t know exactly what farm Riverwards Produce is getting their tomatoes from (Lancaster I believe) but they’re insaenly delicious and sweet – specifically those ugly looking heritage tomatoes. The little green one was melon-like, it was so sweet! While I could certainly just snack on these with a little Maldon salt and olive oil I thought I’d try to highlight them in a pasta dish. I actually make this recipe quite often. Most of the work is done while waiting for the pasta water to come to a boil.
Finely chop some basil and parsley with a little garlic and chili pepper. Mix that together with the best olive oil you can get and season with plenty of salt and pepper and a dash of lemon juice or vinegar. This isn’t technically a pesto because it’s lacking nuts and has the addition of acid. So let’s call it an Italian or Basil Chimichurri. I love the stuff on pasta, chicken, and fish.
Your choice of olive oil is critical here. You want the oil to not just be a medium for the herbs to float in but a big player in the flavor profile. I picked up everything in this recipe from Riverwards including the Fat Gold Olive Oil. They’re a new, super small producer in California. I love that they publish blog-like Field Reports on their website. I’m guessing there’s some Philly connection because Kathryn’s wearing a Primal Supply t-shirt in their Olive Gothic photo. This oil is magical. It’s buttery and spicy with lots of herbaceous grassy notes.
So you’ve got your Italian Chimichurri done and your pasta water’s probably at full boil by now. Go ahead and salt your water and add your pasta. While that’s cooking you have plenty of time to chop your fresh local tomatoes. With the mix of tomatoes I had, red and yellow and heirloom, I chopped the red and yellow tomatoes a little smaller and the heirloom a little bigger. The smaller bits will melt away in to a sauce while the bigger pieces remaining as chunks with the pasta. Try to discard any excess liquid and seeds as your chopping your tomatoes.
Speaking of sauce, make sure to reserve about a half cup of pasta water before you drain your pasta. Turn off the stove and dump your al dente pasta right back in the same pot you cooked it in (one pot for the win!). Add your Italian Chimichurri and give it a good thorough mix so that penne gets well coated. Now fold in your chopped tomatoes. I like to stir this for a good minute or so so the tomatoes have time to warm up and the smaller pieces can melt away. Here you can add a quarter cup or so of pasta water and keep mixing. Between the olive oil, melted tomatoes, and pasta water, you should have a light sauce coating your pasta. That salty starchy pasta water is key!
I know this looks like a very basic recipe. It seems like a simple penne and tomatoes dish but it’s SO MUCH more when you’re using good ingredients. It tastes like pure summer time. Serve Penne with Tomatoes right from the stove top for lunch or dinner. Refrigerate over night to let the flavors intensify and serve cold at a cookout. Either way, I hope you find the best in-season tomatoes, olive oil, and fresh herbs to make this before your summer is over.
Penne with Tomatoes
- 5 Cups cold water
- 3 Tbs. Coarse Sea Salt
- 12 ounces Penne
- 1/2 cup Basil minced
- 1/4 cup Parsley minced
- 2 Garlic Cloves minced
- 1 pinch Chili Flakes
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 2/3 cup Olive Oil
- 2 Tbs. Lemon Juice or Vinegar
- 2 lb.s In-Season Tomatoes roughly chopped
- Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add coarse sea salt and cook penne until al dente, 10-12 minutes.
- In a small bowl, combine minced basil, parsley, garlic, chili flakes with salt, pepper, Olive Oil and Lemon Juice or Vinegar.
- Roughly chop in season tomatoes discarding any excess seeds and liquid.
- Turn off the stove and reserve 1/2 cup pasta water. Drain al dente pasta and return to the pot.
- Add herb mixture to the pot and stir thoroughly to coat the penne well. Fold in tomatoes for at least one minute. Start with 1/4 cup of reserved pasta water to make sauce. Add more if desired.
- Serve warm or refrigerate overnight to serve cold.