Easy Tomato and Pesto Pasta

This is the perfect pasta for when you don’t have much time and need something tasty. Pesto pasta has just a few ingredients and it is easy to make. I will add chicken, shrimp, salmon, or tofu if I need a more substantial meal.  

I don’t know how many times I have made this dish when I was in college. It was one of those that didn’t cost a lot of money, tasted great, and made a bunch. Plus I was able to add some additional protein to have a nice little meal. I have a soft spot for meals like this that take less than 30 minutes and have very few ingredients. Make this dish and watch everyone around you devour it quickly. 

In this recipe

One of the things that I like about this recipe is its simplicity and it makes a great side or entrée depending if you want to add some more protein. 

Pasta: I use cavatappi but you will want a noodle with ridges or folds to help catch and hold onto the sauce.  

Pasta water: this will help make a nice smooth sauce with the pesto. Since you are tossing this in am bowl instead of in a pan you will only need a tablespoon or two. 

Cherry tomatoes: these are the perfect size to be eaten whole. However you can use larger tomatoes when you slice them however you will reduce the cooking time by half you don’t have to cause them to burst. 

Pine nuts: these add a little crunch to the pasta. As they normally found in the pesto this is a great addition to the dish. You can use other kinds of nuts as well. 

Ingredients for pesto pasta on a wooden cutting board
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Blistering the tomatoes

One of my favorite ways to eat tomatoes in pasta is to blister them and make them burst. I like doing this for a couple of reasons. The first of these is that the flavor of the tomatoes is enhanced and it will bring out some natural sweetness. The second reason is that the liquid released will help create a smoother sauce when you add them to the pasta. You want to make sure that you are stirring the tomatoes so that more than one side gets a little char on it. 

Blistered tomatoes and garlic in a pan
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Toasted pine nuts in a pan
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Prepared ingredients in a mixing bowl
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Mixed pesto pasta in a mixing bowl
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Toasted pine nuts

This is good step when you add any kind of nut or seed to  dish is to toast if first. By toasting them you will enhance their natural flavors and create a nice texture. You want to make sure that you do this on a medium to medium low heat. Yes it will take a bit longer for them to toast but you can control how evenly they cook. On higher heats they are prone to scorch and this will make them taste rancid. If you choose to use a different nut or seed make sure to give it a toast as well. 

A large bowl of pesto pasta
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Toss the pesto pasta

Once you have all of the other ingredients ready then all you have left to do is toss the pasta. Personally I like to add all the pesto first and then toss to evenly coat. Then once it is nice and mixed in add the rest of the ingredients. This will help prevent all of the pine nuts and tomatoes from moving down to the bottom of the bowl. Garnish with a little fresh basil if you would like for a pop of color and watch this disappear. 

Pesto pasta in a white bowl
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Looking for other pasta recipes?

A white bowl of pesto pasta
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Tomato and Pesto Pasta

Pasta tossed in pesto with garlic, lemon and blistered cherry tomatoes.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Pasta
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings 6 servings
Calories 563 kcal


  • Saucepan
  • Sauté pan
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Wooden spoon
  • Colander


  • 1 pound cavatappi
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • ½ cup pesto
  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon garlic thinly sliced


  • In a saucepan prepare the pasta according to package instructions. Drain and retain a half of a cup of the pasta water.
  • Heat a sauté pan over medium heat add the pine nuts. Toast for 5-7 minutes or until the sides of the pine nuts start to brown. Make sure to stir or toss often. Remove them from the pan and set aside in a bowl.
  • In the warm sauté pan heat the oil over medium high heat and add the tomatoes. Once the tomatoes start to blister and burst, about 5-8 minutes, add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
  • In a mixing bowl combine the pasta, tomato and garlic mixture, pine nuts, lemon juice, lemon zest, and pesto. Gently stir to coat all of the pasta. Add pasta water a tablespoon at a time to get a nice smooth sauce to coat the pasta. You won't need very much.


For additional protein or to make this pasta a meal feel free to add chicken, shrimp, or salmon to the dish. 
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. 


Serving: 1servingCalories: 563kcalCarbohydrates: 63gProtein: 15gFat: 29gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 7gMonounsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 5mgSodium: 145mgPotassium: 465mgFiber: 4gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 688IUVitamin C: 22mgCalcium: 104mgIron: 3mg
Nutrition Disclaimer*
Keyword 30 min meals, Pasta, Pesto
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pesto pasta Pinterest pin
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5 from 1 vote (1 rating without comment)

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