Weeknight Shorts: Fresh Tomato & Basil Penne

As September starts to give way to October, gardens in my part of the world are just beginning to contemplate ending for the year. But this is a bittersweet time, given how delicious those gardens can be the last few weeks. Mine tends to be absolutely brimming with flavor in the way of fresh herbs, summer squash, tomatoes, and more. Several of these often get picked the same day as I plan to make a simple dinner like this:

Later in the season, a mismatched handful of cherry tomatoes might be paired with a slicer tomato or two to make the sauce and if a bit of oregano or thyme fall into my basket with the basil, they will end up in my pasta as well. I've even been known to dice a zucchini and work that into the mix as well. This one is all about freshness and working your garden onto your plate.

A chopped vegetable salad and green garlic bread make excellent side dishes for this meal. Oh, how fortunate that they were both featured earlier this week! You're welcome - you now have a simply fantastic dinner plan ready to go!

Fresh Tomato & Basil Penne

  • 1 lb. dried penne pasta - or other short pasta
  • ¼ c. olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • ¼ c. sun dried tomato paste or chunky tomato sauce
  • ½ c. fresh basil leaves, finely chopped plus more for garnishing
  • 1 lb. fresh tomatoes - chopped if large, but if you have grape or cherry tomatoes, leave some whole

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta to the water and cook until al dente according to the package directions.

While the pasta cooks, warm the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and Italian seasoning and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes or until the garlic is golden. Add the tomato paste or sauce and use the back of a wooden spoon to “mash” it into the garlic. Sauté for an additional 2 to 3 minutes or until the tomato paste or sauce starts to darken in color.

Add the tomatoes and fresh basil to the sauté pan; sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, until the tomatoes have softened and released their juices. Turn the heat to medium-low.

Drain, but do not rinse, the cooked pasta. Add the cooked penne to the pan with the tomatoes and use tongs or a spoon to mix well, until the sauce and oil coats every noodle. Add additional salt to taste, if necessary.

Serve warm, topped with fresh basil.

  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes