This pink sauce pasta recipe is, at its heart, a tomato cream sauce. It’s also similar to the Knorr Parma Rosa sauce mix, for those of you looking for a full-flavor, homemade knock-off.
The inspiration for this recipe for pink pasta sauce was the volunteer tomato plant that has been growing by the side of the house. The one with hundreds of cherry tomatoes just starting to ripen.
I wanted a vegetarian pasta recipe that would showcase those tomatoes. So I sautéed the cherry tomatoes lightly with a little bit of garlic, just to break them down and sweeten their flavor a wee bit. And then I added them on top of a pink sauce pasta.
Don’t worry if you don’t have your own wildly growing cherry tomato plant. You can always make this recipe with store-bought cherry tomatoes. Or skip the fresh tomatoes and enjoy your creamy pink sauce pasta on its own.
Tips and tricks to making this recipe
Making the pink pasta sauce
The base of this pink pasta sauce is a hearty tomato sauce that falls right in the middle between perfectly smooth marinara sauce and totally chunky red sauce. First chop the celery, carrot, onion, and garlic cloves finely. Then sauté them in a large pot with a bunch of butter or olive oil (Panel #1, below).
When possible, use whole peeled tomatoes for your tomato sauces (Panel #2). Although whole tomatoes take longer to cook down, I have been told that canned whole tomatoes are better quality than chopped canned tomatoes because the tomatoes have to be perfect to be canned whole. That makes sense to me.
You can add a tablespoon or so of tomato paste here if you’re using tomatoes that are a bit sad.
Panel #3 shows the pasta sauce after the tomatoes have cooked down for about 30 minutes. But it’s the added heavy cream in panel #4 that makes a pink pasta sauce.
Well, maybe this rose pasta sauce is more rosa salmone than rosa.
Taste the sauce and add more salt, black pepper, or even a bit more sugar as needed.
Making the sautéed cherry tomatoes
Cook the cherry tomatoes, fresh garlic, salt, and black pepper in a large skillet until the tomatoes have just started to wilt and release some juice.
The other key bit of advice about this recipe, actually about any pasta recipe, is to look at the package instructions and cook the pasta until it is just al dente. Then combine the cooked pasta and the creamy tomato sauce in the pot over a little bit of heat and with a little pasta water, if necessary. Pasta served this way will absorb some of the flavors of the sauce. It takes just a minute longer and will absolutely make a difference in taste.
Garnish with a bit of Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh parsley or fresh basil. What is it that they say? Pasta and cocktails aren’t fully dressed without a garnish!
What to serve with this pink sauce pasta
On its own, this pasta dish makes a great meal if you add a green vegetable and a simple salad. Or make this pasta recipe as a side for some cast iron chicken breasts. But no matter what, make sure to have ready a slice or two of garlic bread or rustic bread to mop up the extra sauce.
If you’re drinking wine, I’d look for a light to medium red. A Sangiovese would work if you want to keep to the Italian theme.
FAQs about this pink sauce pasta recipe
Cascatelli is my new favorite pasta shape. It was created by Dan Pashman of the Sporkful food podcast. His goal was to create a shape that had “sauceability,” “forkabilty,” and “toothsinkability.” This pasta has all three.
Any short pasta would work well here. Penne pasta, fusilli, elbow macaroni, and cavatappi are some of my favorites.
The high acidity of tomatoes can make tomato sauces taste bitter. Adding a teaspoon of sugar or so can eliminate this bitterness.
If you want to prepare this ahead of time, I would recommend freezing the cooked tomato sauce in an airtight container prior to adding cream. To make the pink sauce recipe, simply reheat the frozen tomato sauce until warm, and then proceed with the recipe.
Got too many cherry tomatoes? Make these dehydrated cherry tomatoes to keep for a snack. Or add them to this orzo pesto salad or use them for the burst of red in this rainbow salad with maple Dijon dressing.
Pink Pasta Sauce with Sautéed Cherry Tomatoes
- Food processor, optional
Pink pasta sauce
- 1 stalk celery
- 1 carrot
- ½ onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 28 ounces canned whole tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper plus more to taste
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano or dried thyme or combo of the two
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- ½ cup heavy cream
Sauteed cherry tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 pound short pasta of choice
- ¼ cup Italian parsley or basil, chopped
- 1 ounce (or more) grated Parmesan, to top
Pink pasta sauce
- Place the celery, carrot, onion, and garlic in your food processor and blitz until finely chopped. Or finely chop these vegetables by hand.1 stalk celery, 1 carrot, ½ onion, 2 cloves garlic
- In a large lidded saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat.4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Add the vegetables and cook them until softened, about 5 to 7 minutes.
- Add the canned tomatoes and any tomato juice in the can to the saucepan. Remove any basil leaves that might have been with the canned tomatoes.28 ounces canned whole tomatoes
- Stir in the salt, pepper, thyme or oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and mashing the tomatoes to break them up. (This is the point where I start to heat the pot of water for the pasta and cook the cherry tomatoes.)1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon ground black pepper, ½ teaspoon dried oregano or dried thyme or combo of the two, ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- When most of the tomatoes have broken down into small pieces, stir in the sugar. Taste the sauce and add more salt and pepper as desired.1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- Turn the heat down to a low simmer and add the cream.½ cup heavy cream
Sautéed cherry tomatoes
- Add the olive oil to a frying pan large enough to hold the tomatoes and heat over medium heat.1 teaspoon olive oil
- Add the tomatoes, garlic, salt, and pepper and cook until the tomatoes have just started to wilt and release some juice.2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved, 2 cloves garlic, minced, ½ teaspoon salt, ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Cook the pasta until al dente, drain, and then return to the pasta pot.1 pound short pasta of choice
- Add the pink pasta sauce and cook over low heat for one to two minutes, stirring the pasta and sauce together.
- Ladle the pasta into bowls and top with the cherry tomatoes. Garnish with the chopped parsley or basil and top with Parmesan. Serve immediately.¼ cup Italian parsley or basil, chopped, 1 ounce (or more) grated Parmesan, to top
If you make this recipe, please don’t forget to leave a comment and rating.
I’ve started a new Facebook group for home cooks, bakers, and cocktail makers. Please join the conversation!
Looking to learn?
Sign up to get recipes full of kitchen tips and tricks.