Tomato Pasta with Arugula

Tomato Pasta with Arugula

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This tomato pasta with arugula is a zesty weeknight pasta that’s piled on crisp, peppery arugula. It’s as easy as anything to throw together.

It wasn’t my intention to make pasta. Instead, I was going to make fish with lots of fresh herbs. I prepped all my herbs and got everything ready to go. As fate would have it, I unwrapped my fish and realized it was spoiled. Fish was off the menu that evening. I still had so many bright, zesty herbs that I didn’t want to see go to waste. Naturally, pasta is always the best pivot recipe.

I didn’t want to lose the brightness of the herbs by cooking them first, so I decided to try a slightly different approach. I simmered a can of cherry tomatoes in olive oil with crushed red pepper until it thickened. While the tomatoes simmered, I boiled a pot of pasta. I stirred the fresh herbs into the tomatoes and tossed them with the cooked pasta. This method maintains the brightness of parsley and lemon juice, resulting in a zippy, zesty sauce that clings to every piece of pasta.

How to serve the tomato pasta

I love pasta served on crisp arugula, so I dressed fresh arugula in olive oil and arranged it on pasta bowls. From there, I piled the warm pasta right on top. It’s so delicious because the heat from the tomato pasta wilts some of the arugula, but you still get some crispy bits that taste so good.

Of course, finishing the pasta with plenty of fresh Parmesan is always a good choice too.

Tomato Pasta with Arugula Recipe

What pasta should I use?

I used penne, but this dish would work well with your favorite pasta shape. I would try to go with something that is a bit sturdy and avoid thin or small pasta like angel hair or orzo. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Tubular pasta: Penne, ziti, rigatoni, or mezzi rigatoni would be delicious.
  • Long pasta: Spaghetti, bucatini, or linguine would be fantastic.
  • Fun shapes: Try it with shells, lumache, or casarecce pasta.

I hope you love this recipe as much as we did!

Tomato Pasta with Arugula Recipe

Tomato Pasta with Arugula

This tomato pasta with arugula is a zesty weeknight pasta that's piled on crisp, peppery arugula. It's as easy as anything to throw together.
5 from 2 votes
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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 331kcal



Sauce base:

  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained
  • 1 shallot, peeled and finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced; or use ½ teaspoon dry
  • cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper, more or less to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Tomato sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 14.5- ounce can cherry tomatoes
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 10 basil leaves, torn
  • Salt and pepper

For serving:

  • 3 ounces fresh arugula
  • 8 basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces dry pasta
  • Grated Parmesan cheese


Prepare the sauce base:

  • Combine all the ingredients for the sauce base and toss to combine. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Let stand as you prepare the rest of the meal.

Make the pasta:

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Remove ½ cup of the water and set aside. Drain the pasta.

Make the sauce:

  • As you wait for the pasta water to boil, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the cherry tomatoes and a pinch of sugar, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15–20 minutes. Taste and add more salt and pepper.

Prepare the arugula:

  • Combine the arugula, 8 basil leaves, and olive oil in a bowl. Use your hands to massage the oil into the leaves gently. Add a pinch of salt.

Finish the sauce:

  • Stir the sauce base into the cherry tomatoes and the torn basil leaves. Bring to a boil for 3–5 minutes until the shallots soften. Reduce the heat and add half the pasta water. Stir in the cooked pasta, adding the remaining pasta water as needed until the pasta is well-coated with the sauce. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Remove from heat.

To serve:

  • Divide the dressed arugula between shallow bowls and pile the cooked pasta on top. Garnish each plate with freshly grated Parmesan cheese if you like. Enjoy!


Calories: 331kcal | Carbohydrates: 52g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 12g | Sodium: 199mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin C: 18mg
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