Roasted Tomato Basil Pasta

4.92 from 24 votes
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Roasted tomato basil pasta is a simple yet satisfying meal! Sweet cherry tomatoes, walnuts, parmesan cheese, and anchovies create an irresistible sauce. 

Roasted Tomato Basil Pasta

I’ve been trying to find new healthier ways to make those meals even more enjoyable with little effort. This recipe for roasted tomato basil pesto pasta is classic Italian comfort food that you can enjoy any night of the week. Sounds like a good plan right?

Ripe tomatoes don’t need much cooking to make their sweet, earthy flavors shine! I’ve got a few simple culinary techniques that will take a boring plate of pasta and turn it into something to make your grandma proud. I’ve got some big shoes to fill! I know you’re ready, let’s get that water boiling and throw that apron on shall we?

slices of roasted cherry tomatoes on a sheet pan

Cherry tomatoes – Mother nature’s candy, that’s good for you! These little gems get halved, tossed in a little bit of olive oil and salt. Broiled until lightly blistered, after a few minutes of roasting they are BURSTING with flavor! Cooking mellows some of the acids in the tomato, concentrating the sweetness and flavors of the tomato. The perfect base for the pesto!

Instead of adding basil leaves like a traditional pesto sauce, the roasted tomatoes are the star! Pureed in a blender or food processor until just combined with walnuts, garlic, lemon zest, fresh parmesan cheese, and olive oil. The nutty, earthy and slightly sweet sauce is divine!

roasted tomato sauce in a wooden bowl

I like to leave little pieces of the toasted walnuts to add some crunchy texture to the pesto sauce. Don’t worry. Large fresh pesto leaves are added to the pasta later. And now for the SECRET ingredient that takes this pesto to the next level.

ANCHOVIES! Oh yea, if you haven’t used them before today is your lucky day. Don’t be afraid. It is THE game changer to turn your pasta up a notch. You add them in whole, and they melt into the pesto sauce. No need to worry about bones or a ‘fishy” taste. They add this subtle yet elegant, savory flavor.

anchovies that have been taken straight out of the can

It’s all about creating layers of flavor to the dish, and this is one easy way to do it. Don’t skip this ingredient. It’s super affordable. Be brave, and try something new! You’ll be happy you did and won’t even notice it’s in there. Pinky swear!

Three things that will make this pasta sensational:

  1. Toast the walnuts to make them crunchy and bring out the nutty oil notes.
  2. Broil the tomatoes to enhance the sweetness and deepen the natural flavors.
  3. Puree the ingredients into a pesto with anchovies to create a luscious sauce.

Bowl of pasta with roasted tomato sauce

Wait no longer, grab a fork, it’s time to dig in! This light and flavor pasta is satisfying as it. However, you could add some chicken or shrimp if you need a little extra protein. If you want a comforting meaty sauce, give my bolognese pasta a try. What’s your favorite side dish or beverage to serve with a big bowl of pasta?

What are ways to use canned or jarred anchovies?

Once you’ve discovered these teeny culinary delights, you can unlock the magical flavor power of the salted anchovy. They add this deep umami and savory flavor without leaving a strong fishy taste. So they enhance the flavor of any dish in an instant with little effort. The anchovies go through a curing process with lends a bold briny flavor, as well as tenderizes the protein into the fish, so it quickly melts into the dish. You can enjoy them whole on top of some crusty bread with other toppings, add to pizzas, blend into dressing like a kale caesar salad, in a sauce like this roasted tomato pesto or even use it as a rub on meats. Anything you want to add a delicious savory note to, anchovies can give that flavor punch.

Roasted Tomato Basil Pasta

Roasted tomato basil pasta made with sweet cherry tomatoes, walnuts, parmesan cheese & anchovies for an irresistible sauce.
4.92 from 24 votes
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine Italian


  • 1 cup walnuts, divided
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • cup olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 6 anchovies, oil-packed
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, crushed
  • ½ ounce parmesan cheese, grated, plus more for garnish, ½ cup
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 12 ounces spaghetti, regular, whole wheat, gluten-free, brown rice noodles
  • ½ cup basil leaves, packed


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Add walnuts to a rimmed baking sheet and toast on the center rack for 8-10 minutes. Cook until slightly darkened, stirring halfway through. Allow to cool.
  • Heat broiler. In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and ½ teaspoon salt then add to a rimmed baking sheet. Place sheet in the oven about 8 to 10 inches away from the top of the broiler. Cook until tomatoes start to soften and blister, about 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside to slightly cool.
  • In a blender or food processor add anchovies, garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, and ½ ounce of Parmesan cheese. Pulse or blend until finely ground, about 15 seconds.
  • Add ⅔ cup of the toasted walnuts and half of the tomatoes. With the motor running, stream in ⅓ cup of the olive oil, process until just combined. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Puree for a few more seconds until combined. Transfer pesto to a large bowl.
  • Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, according to the manufacturer's directions. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta liquid, then drain the noodles.
  • Add pasta to the pesto. Add a small amount of the pasta liquid and toss, add more liquid as needed until the sauce coats the pasta. Add basil and remaining tomatoes on top.
  • Divide among bowls and top with parmesan, chopped walnuts, basil, black pepper, and a little olive oil drizzle if desired.


  • The pesto can be made up to a day in advance.
  • Recipe inspired by Bon Appetit.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 4 servings
Calories 497kcal (25%)Carbohydrates 48g (16%)Protein 14g (28%)Fat 31g (48%)Saturated Fat 4g (20%)Polyunsaturated Fat 14gMonounsaturated Fat 11gCholesterol 6mg (2%)Sodium 559mg (23%)Potassium 370mg (11%)Fiber 5g (20%)Sugar 5g (6%)Vitamin A 1300IU (26%)Vitamin C 26.4mg (32%)Calcium 90mg (9%)Iron 3.4mg (19%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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21 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Alison says

    I was skeptical about this recipe because it seemed just too simple, but it’s absolutely delicious! I followed your directions to the letter, and the results were fantastic. Thanks, Jessica!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      You are so welcome Alison! Sometimes just a few simple cooking techniques helps coax out the flavor of simple ingredients 🙂 Whoo hoo for Maillard browning!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thanks Abby! I think almonds would work well for this recipe instead of walnuts, and pecans as a back up.

  2. Karly says

    Sometimes I just need a good hearty dose of pasta– well, that’s pretty much all the time– but this recipe is the perfect solution! Looks SO yummy!

  3. Anne says

    Omggg I had huge plans to make pasta with pesto -how did you know? I’m definitely trying this out soon!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Eileen! I think that the roasted tomatoes can be jarred and canned, but not once it’s made into the pesto. Let me know if you decide to can it, I would love to hear how it went 🙂

  4. Neyla Carballo says

    Lovely recipe!!… This time I have my vegetable garden plenty of all kind of tomatoes and cherry tomatoes…… chemical free, of course!!!…… Next week I´ll try it!! ;))) Lot of kisses!!! ;)))

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you Neyla! Oh I’m sure the pasta will be even more amazing with your homegrown tomatoes! I can’t wait to hear how it turns out 🙂

  5. Judy says

    It is a beautiful looking recipe Jessica. I like anchovies but have never purchased them to cook with myself. You are inspiration! I always use to put my tomatoes in the refrigerator and then I read they should be left out on the counter. So this week when we went to the Fruit Bowl I brought the tomatoes home, washed and dried them and put them in a pretty bowl on the table. We have been having some sliced each night with dinner. They taste amazing and so much nicer / jucier at room temperature.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you so much Judy! Anchovies are so amazing, I hope you get a chance to use them! I actually leave my tomatoes on the counter as well, I find that they get a little grainy in texture when I refrigerate them. I’m so glad that you are enjoying tomato season!

  6. Brittany | Words Like Honeycomb says

    I saw this post and thought, ‘ahh I’ve made something like that before!’ (<I most definitely have not lol) I should have known, you could take a basic dish and develop so many special complex flavors and still keep things simple and easy. I am excited to try this and be a brave soul and buy anchovies…I have never thought about rubbing them on meat either…so smart!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I can’t wait to hear what you think Brittany! The anchovies definitely adds that extra oomph to the flavor of the pesto sauce. I was hesitant at first, but once I made it I was sold 🙂