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Tomato Basil Pasta is a quick and easy recipe made with tender penne pasta and juicy grape tomatoes. Perfect for lunch or dinner and ready in just 20 minutes, it’s a delicious meal that the whole family will love.

Penne pasta with tomatoes and basil

Penne pasta is my favorite pasta to cook with. It’s hearty, it’s rustic and there is no twirling required. It hold it’s own against some pretty delicious sauces, like this creamy garlic sauce, and it’s amazing in this Tomato Basil Pasta recipe. It’s also easy to pick up out of the pot with your fingers if that’s how you like to do things. No judgement here.

The best, and my personal favorite, penne pasta recipe is this Tomato Basil Penne Pasta. There is no cream or butter, so you can feel good about eating the whole pan. I mean, about eating your portion. It’s super fresh, with a whole pint of sweet tomatoes and loads of fresh basil and garlic. Let’s get cooking, shall we?

Rustic penne pasta with tomato basil sauce

How to Make Tomato Basil Pasta

This pasta recipe starts as most good pasta recipes do – cooking the pasta just right! Bring some water to a boil, then salt it generously. I usually toss in a few good pinches. Measure out about 3 cups of the dry pasta. This doesn’t have to be an exact science, so a little more or a little less won’t hurt. You don’t want the pasta to be cooked all the way, so set your timer for a couple of minutes less than the package calls for. It will finish cooking in the sauce you’re about the make.

Once the pasta is boiling, start on the sauce. Heat some olive oil and saute diced onions and garlic and a little red pepper flakes for heat. Next add the grape tomatoes that have been sliced in half and a handful of chopped basil. The tomatoes will release juices to help create the sauce. After a minute or two the tomatoes will start to blister; at this point you’ll add a ladle-ful of the pasta water straight outta the pot (that’s about 3/4-1 cup of pasta water). The starch that’s released from the pasta as it cooks will help to thicken the tomato basil sauce.

Close up image of tomato basil pasta

Boil the sauce for a minute or two, then add the pasta. If you time it just right, the pasta will be about ¾ of the way done at this point, but if the pasta is ready sooner, just drain it and set it aside until you’re ready to add it; shouldn’t be more that a couple of minutes.

Once the pasta is added you’ll just continue to let the tomato basil pasta simmer over medium-low heat. The pasta will finish cooking and become nice and tender, with a delicious tomato basil flavor. The tomatoes combined with the garlic, onion and the pasta water will have created a yummy sauce that’s smooth and luxurious and thick enough to coat the penne pasta. The finishing touch is a bit of Parmesan cheese that you can stir in, or just garnish the top with. Make sure to test the seasonings and add more salt and pepper if you like.

A spoonful of penne pasta with tomato basil sauce

Here are some more delicious pasta recipes to try:

Tomato Basil Pasta Recipe:

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A close up of Tomato Penne Pasta

Tomato Basil Penne Pasta

4.85 from 13 votes
Tomato Basil Pasta is a quick and easy recipe made with tender penne pasta and juicy grape tomatoes. Perfect for lunch or dinner and ready in just 20 minutes, it’s a delicious meal that the whole family will love.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 servings
Calories 466kcal


  • 12 ounces penne pasta
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes sliced in half
  • 6-8 leaves fresh basil sliced into thin strips (chiffonade), plus some for garnish
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese plus some for garnish


  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the penne pasta and cook, until about three-quarters of the way done (2 minutes under what's called for on the package. 
  • Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook until soft; about 3 minutes. Stir in red pepper flakes and garlic and cook for 1 minutes before adding the tomatoes and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until the tomatoes just begin to blister, about 2 minutes. Add a ladle full of the pasta water (about ¾-1 cup) and the chopped basil to the tomatoes.
  • Add the pasta to the saute pan and bring to a boil. The liquid will reduce as the pasta finishes to form a sauce; 3-4 minutes. Stir in ⅓ cup fresh grated Parmesan.
  • Season with salt and garnish with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.


Serve this with garlic bread for sopping up all the leftover juices!


Calories: 466kcalCarbohydrates: 71gProtein: 14gFat: 14gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 5mgSodium: 122mgPotassium: 519mgFiber: 5gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 1080IUVitamin C: 18mgCalcium: 94mgIron: 2mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.

Tomato Basil Pasta recipe with title text

Kristin Maxwell

Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.

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  1. Just made this and it was delicious. Nice and light and fresh. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I could have added a bit more Parmesan but then again I might have been a tad heavy handed with the pasta! That is a simple fix had I grated more! I just wanted to dive in! Wish I could figure out how to post a picture!

  2. I made this for dinner tonight and added ground turkey sausage. I served it with fresh steamed green beans. It was soooo good! Thanks for the recipe.

  3. Can this be reheated? How do you recommend reheating since it has the basil and tomatoes in it that had already been cooked?

    1. Hi Kelly, yes it can be reheated, just do so slowly and add a little olive oil or butter if it’s dry.

  4. I love this recipe, thank you so much Kristin! My kids hate almost everything I cook, but this they actually ask me for! Your recipe works so well for me because the instructions and cooking method are clear; it leaves me no room for errors. The changes I made, in case it helps anyone else, were to omit the onions and red pepper flakes, add a pinch of sugar with the tomatoes, and double the garlic, tomatoes and basil. I look forward to trying more of your recipes.

  5. Great quarantine meal! We sautéed chicken breast first, then added back in when you add the pasta. It was delicious and a bit heartier.

    1. I really liked this recipe, I added a little Italian seasoning and some capers. It was so good that 3 of us ate the recipe made for 4.