Pink Sauce Pasta with Sautéed Cherry Tomatoes

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 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.

a bowl of pink sauce pasta topped with sauteed tomatoes and Parmesan.

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.

a bowl full of perfectly ripe cherry tomatoes on a green cloth.

Tips and tricks to making this pink sauce pasta

The base of this sauce is a hearty tomato sauce that falls right in the middle between perfectly smooth and totally chunky. I first chopped the vegetables finely in the food processor and then sautéed them in a bunch of butter (Panel #1).

I use whole peeled tomatoes for my 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.

four panels showing the steps in making the pink pasta sauce.

Panel #3 shows the pasta sauce after the tomatoes have cooked down for about 30 minutes. But it’s the added cream in panel #4 that makes a pink pasta sauce.

Well, maybe it’s more rosa salmone than rosa.

The other key bit of advice about this recipe, actually about any pasta recipe, is to combine the pasta and the sauce in the pot over a little bit of heat. 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.

a bowl of cascatelli with pink pasta sauce.

FAQs about this pink sauce pasta recipe

What is that pasta shape called?

Cascatelli is the new pasta shape 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.

What other pasta shapes would work?

Any short pasta would work well here. Penne, fusilli, and cavatappi are some of my favorites.

Why do you add sugar to tomato sauce?

The high acidity of tomatoes can make tomato sauces taste bitter. Adding a teaspoon or two of granulated sugar can eliminate this bitterness.

What should I serve with this?

On its own, this pasta makes a great meal if you add a green vegetable and a side salad. Or make this pasta recipe as a side for roast chicken.

But no matter what, make sure to have ready a slice or two rustic bread to mop up the extra sauce.

What should I drink with this?

I’d look for a light to medium red, perhaps a Sangiovese if you want to keep to the Italian theme.

Can I freeze the pink pasta sauce?

If you want to prepare this ahead of time, I would recommend freezing the cooked tomato sauce prior to adding cream. To make the pink sauce recipe, simply reheat the frozen tomato sauce until warm, and then proceed with the recipe.

a frying pan full of lightly cooked cherry tomatoes.

Pink Pasta Sauce with Sautéed Cherry Tomatoes

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 4
Calories 761kcal
Author uglyducklingbakery


  • 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
  • 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, 1/2 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 5-7 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, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or dried thyme or combo of the two, 1/4 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.
    1/2 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, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/8 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.
    1/4 cup Italian parsley or basil, chopped, 1 ounce (or more) grated Parmesan, to top


This recipe will serve 4 as a main course or 8 as a side dish.


Calories: 761kcal | Carbohydrates: 109g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 76mg | Sodium: 1339mg | Potassium: 1308mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 16g | Vitamin A: 5179IU | Vitamin C: 81mg | Calcium: 243mg | Iron: 6mg

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Check out some related uglyducklingbakery pasta recipes like this sausage ragû or this cavatappi alfredo.

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