Creamy Tomato Basil Pasta is our favorite way to use all those garden tomatoes! Fresh tomatoes and cream form this Italian "pink" sauce with garlic, basil, and other garden extras like onion and zucchini. Add a protein or keep it vegetarian, this simple creamy vegetable pasta is full of summer garden flavor and ready in 25 minutes!
The Garden Bounty
It's mid August and our garden is overflowing with all the summer favorites, tomatoes, zucchini and loads of basil! This simple creamy tomato basil sauce dents the produce pile on my counter!
If you don't garden, the farmer's market has it all too! The juiciness of the tomatoes and a little cream makes this quick summer pink harvest pasta sauce and comes together in the time it takes you to cook the pasta!
If you LOVE easy creamy pastas, be sure to try my
And if you really have more tomatoes than you know what to do with, make a pot of Freezer Marinara Sauce with Fresh Tomatoes!
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Fettuccini - You can really make this tomato basil fettuccine using any pasta shape, long or short. Spaghetti, penne, or bowtie are great substitutions.
- Olive Oil
- Zucchini - This turned into a Tomato Basil Zucchini Pasta because when you grow zucchini you end up with so much, you throw it in everything! However, this creamy vegetable pasta is versatile! You can substitute other veggies for the zucchini such as red bell pepper, mushrooms, spinach or kale.
- Fresh Tomato - The amount doesn't need to be exact, but I chopped about 4 cups from the basket of various tomato varieties. Use what you have, a handful of cherry tomatoes and any combination of larger tomatoes. All that liquid in the tomatoes is what combines with the cream to form your "pink" harvest pasta sauce!
- Garlic - Use fresh if you can!
- Basil - Tomato and basil are a match made in heaven! I love having lots of basil to use all summer. Buying a small starter plant is just not enough! I've found the best way to grow basil is to buy a packet of seeds for a few dollars and plant the whole pack! I fill up a whole window box and enjoy fresh basil all summer. Extras get frozen into pesto.
- Salt and Pepper
- Heavy Cream
- Parmesan Cheese
Step 1 - In the time it takes to boil water and cook your pasta, the creamy tomato basil sauce can be made, before tossing it all together. Set water to boil and cook your pasta with a pinch of salt, following the cooking time on the package. BEFORE you drain the pasta, use a measuring cup or coffee mug to scoop out a cup or so of the starchy cooking liquid to save for the sauce.
Step 2 - Meanwhile, set a second large pan over medium heat and saute your onion and zucchini. When they start to brown, add the chopped tomatoes and garlic and season with salt and pepper.
Step 3 - Add cream to form the sauce. It combines with the juice of the tomatoes, giving you a silky pink sauce, thickening as it reduces. Add in a handful of garden basil and use tongs to toss with your drained pasta and Parmesan cheese. You can add some of the starching cooking water to thin and stretch the sauce as needed. If the pasta sits awhile, it may need a bit more of the liquid to loosen back up.
- Adding Protein - I kept this recipe simple and vegetarian, but you could easily add grilled chicken, shrimp or sliced Italian sausage to make it a heartier meal.
- Storage - Store leftover pasta in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can microwave a quick serving for lunch, or reheat a larger amount in a pan on the stovetop. Add a little milk or water to loosen it up and stir over low heat. This dish does not freeze well.
- Save your Starchy Pasta Water! - Before you drain your pasta, pull out a cup or so of that starchy liquid gold! Pasta cooking water is one of the secrets to sauce making! The starch from the pasta helps your sauce adhere. It stretches the cream and brings everything together to coat every noodle.
- Season as You Go! - This recipe calls for ½ teaspoon of salt, but it's usually best to season a dish as you go. Add a pinch of salt to the boiling water before adding the pasta. Add a pinch to the sautéing onion and zucchini. Then you can add the ½ teaspoon to the sauce when you add your tomatoes. Since the tomatoes are the bulk of your ingredients, they most need the salt. If you are adding grilled chicken to the top of your pasta, you will of course need to salt it before grilling.
You can, but it won't be quite as good and creamy! Heavy cream has the amazing ability to reduce and thicken into a sauce very quickly. Half and half would be fine to use, since it is half cream and half milk, your sauce may just be a bit thinner. I don't recommend using milk, but whole milk would be best.
Yes! This creamy vegetable pasta is extremely versatile! This is a basic cream sauce, an Alfredo sauce, it's just a sauce made by reducing heavy cream. We've flavored it with tomato and basil, but this is really just a blank canvas! You can add different veggies at the beginning when sautéing the onion. The zucchini could be swapped with mushrooms, bell pepper or eggplant. If you aren't trying to use up garden tomatoes, you could just throw in a handful of cherry tomatoes. Throw in artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes or kalamata olives from the fridge. Really any veggies, with garlic, salt, pepper, Parmesan and some herbs, can be a delicious creamy pasta sauce.
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Creamy Tomato Basil Pasta
- 1 pound fettuccini (or any pasta shape)
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- ½ onion chopped
- 1 zucchini chopped
- 4 cups fresh tomato, any kinds chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- ⅓ cup basil chopped
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 8 grinds fresh black pepper
- 1 cup cream
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese shredded, plus more for serving
- You can make your fresh tomato cream sauce in the time it takes to cook the pasta. Set water to boil (add a pinch of salt before adding pasta) and cook pasta according to package instructions (12 minutes). BEFORE draining, scoop out a cup of the starchy cooking water (a coffee cup or measuring cup works great for this!) and reserve for the sauce.
- Meanwhile, chop all veggies. A full 4 cup pyrex glass measuring cup works well for the tomatoes.
- In a large pan, large enough to toss the pasta with the sauce, heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onion and zucchini with a pinch of salt and pepper, until starting to soften and brown. Stir often.
- Add tomato and garlic, season with ½ teaspoon salt and 8 grinds pepper. Let saute with the zucchini and onion a few more minutes until the liquid in the tomato starts to release.
- Add basil and cream and simmer on low, about 5 minutes until slightly thickened. Stir often until pasta is ready.
- Add drained pasta and Parmesan to the sauce and toss with tongs until well combined. You can add some of the starching cooking water to thin the sauce as needed. Sometimes when I come back to the stove for a second helping, the sauce has sit awhile and needs a bit of liquid to loosen it up.
- Serve with extra fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.
- Adding Protein - This recipe is simple and vegetarian, but you could easily add grilled chicken, shrimp or sliced Italian sausage.
- Switch up the Veggies for many variations of this recipe!
- Time your Pasta - Always check the cooking time on the box of pasta and start with the shortest amount of time it recommends. Set a timer! You want your pasta al dente, with a bit of firmness and never mushy!