The freshness of this sauce is perfect when the weather is warm, and tomatoes are at their peak. I know, cherry tomatoes are available year-round, and this recipe is delicious year-round as well. There is just something spectacular when tomatoes are at their finest!

Another thing I love is when the colors of cherry tomatoes vary – there are some red, some orange, and some yellow – the sauce looks really beautiful!

A few years ago, I decided to plant some tomatoes and cherry tomatoes were one variety. The kids loved to pick the cherry tomatoes and that had a big part of them loving this sauce. Classic sauces that simmer for hours are still wonderful and hold a special place in my heart, but the simplicity and freshness of this recipe is wonderful and bright.


1 pound spaghetti noodles
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
6 garlic cloves, smashed

4 pints cherry tomatoes (about 2½ lb.)
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 large sprigs basil, plus 1 cup basil leaves, torn if large

1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more
Pinch of sugar (optional)
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan , plus more for serving


Heat ½ cup oil in a large heavy pot over low. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until softened and fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes.

Increase heat to medium and add tomatoes, red pepper flakes, basil sprigs, and 1½ tsp. salt. Cook, stirring to coat, until tomatoes begin to burst, about 4 minutes.

Smash some but not all the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon to help create a sauce, then continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until a chunky, thickened sauce comes together and about half the tomatoes are completely broken down and half remain intact, 10–12 minutes.

While the sauce is cooking, cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain pasta.

When sauce has finished, taste and adjust seasoning, adding sugar if sauce seems tart. Pluck out and discard basil sprigs.

Add spaghetti to the pot with sauce, and over medium heat, stir until coated, 1–2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1/3 cup Parmesan.

When serving, top with more Parmesan and chopped basil leaves. Drizzle with olive oil if desired.



• If you prefer, other types of pasta work beautifully with this sauce.

• For a little creamier sauce, set aside about 1/4 cup of the pasta water before draining. When combining the pasta with the sauce, add a little pasta water.

• If you do not have cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes work as well.

• Adding a pinch of sugar helps when the sauce is a bit tart. You do not need much sugar at all.

• If you want to freeze sauce, store in an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months.