Fresh Tomato and Basil Pasta With Lemon and Olives

Fresh tomato and basil pasta is a beautiful blend of sweet summer-ripe fresh tomatoes, lemon-basil zing, salty olives, capers and Parmesan.

This is an easy, vibrant recipe that is ready in under 30 minutes. Perfect for tomato season.

bowl of fresh tomato and olive pasta

My sister Kathy had the family over for dinner on the weekend. She served us this pasta dish with a green salad and a shrimp cake appetizer in her backyard. The entire family had rave reviews.

The recipe is adapted from Food & Drink, an Ontario LCBO magazine.

I use a good quality extra virgin olive oil for the recipe. Choosing oils can be overwhelming with all the confusing labels and ‘fakes’ on the market. Our article on best oils for cooking offers quick ‘need to know’ information and recommendations.

Ingredients – tailored to your taste

penne, basil, lemon, olives, tomato, garlic, parmesan, olive oil
penne, basil, lemon, olives, tomato, garlic, parmesan, olive oil

Tomatoes: You can use any type of fresh tomatoes. Heirloom or Roma tomatoes are great choices. Ripe cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes will also work, though I prefer larger ones for this dish.

Basil: Fresh basil leaves work best for this recipe. The most common type of basil found in stores and farmer’s markets is the classic Italian Genovese. Here’s an article on different types of basil if you want to experiment with flavors.

Pasta: Try different pastas. My sister used rigatoni. I prefer smaller pasta like baby penne pasta or even thin spaghetti like vermicelli. You can also use whole wheat pasta or gluten-free pasta.

Olives: I like black Kalamata olives with the simple Mediterranean flavors in this pasta dish, but any olives will work – even green olives.

Marinade: The fresh tomatoes are marinated in olive oil, lemon, capers garlic, and red peppers flakes.

Variations and substitutes

  • You can substitute the capers with anchovy paste (used in the original recipe).
  • Use either shaved or grated parmesan cheese. For a vegan version, use vegan parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast.
  • For the marinade try other seasonings. Black pepper, thyme, oregano, or for a kick of heat, a pinch of cayenne pepper.
  • Add ins:
    • Blanched asparagus cut into small pieces
    • Toasted almond slivers or pine nuts
    • Cooked sausage, smoked chicken, shrimp or fish for a more substantial non vegetarian meal.

Step-by-step instructions

chopped tomatoes, olives, basil and cheese in bowl.

Step 1: Chop the juicy tomatoes and add to a medium bowl with olives, basil, lemon zest, and cheese.

Step 2: In a small bowl, whisk olive oil, lemon juice, capers, garlic, chili flakes, and salt. Pour marinade over the tomato-olive mixture and set aside.

Step 3: Boil pasta and drain, reserving some pasta liquid. Return pasta to pot.

marinated tomatoes and seasonings combined with pasta.

Step 4: Add tomato mixture to the warm pasta in the pot (not over the heat). Adjust the consistency if needed with the pasta water.

tomato basil pasta with olives and lemon in serving bowl.

Give it a drizzle of olive oil and add to a large shallow bowl. Serve and enjoy.

Tips

Do not rinse the pasta: Some pasta salad recipes will have you rinse to pasta to stop the cooking process. But for this recipe, rinsing removes the starch that helps sauce cling to the pasta.

Use quality, fresh ingredients: When making a recipe that only uses a handful of ingredients, you want to make sure you’re using fresh, good-quality ingredients. Fresh basil, good olive oil and ripe juicy tomatoes are key to this dish.

Shortcuts

Instead of cutting fresh tomatoes and preparing the tomato-olive mixture from scratch, you could use pre-made bruschetta or a store-bought tomato-olive tapenade mixture from the grocery store.

To save time on preparing the marinade, you could use a good quality Italian dressing or vinaigrette.

Make ahead

To make this pasta ahead, prepare the tomato-olive mixture and marinade a couple of hours ahead, then just before serving, make the pasta and tossed it all together.

You can also make the dish a day in advance and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. When you’re ready to serve it, reheat it in the microwave or in a large skillet over medium heat on the stove.

What to serve with this tomato basil pasta recipe

I typically serve this easy pasta recipe as a weeknight meal with some warm crusty bread.

It would also be a great side dish for cold sliced chicken, Mediterranean-Style Marinated Chicken or Roasted Salmon Stuffed with Herbs.

tomato basil pasta with olives and lemon in serving bowl.

Love summer tomatoes? 

Then check out some great recipes and tips on what to do with tomatoes.

If you like this recipe, please leave a 5 star rating 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟with a comment in the recipe card below. Thanks so much!

tomato basil pasta with olives and lemon in serving bowl.
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4.87 from 23 votes

Fresh Tomato and Basil Pasta With Lemon and Olives

Fresh tomato and basil pasta is a beautiful blend of sweet summer-ripe fresh tomatoes, lemon-basil zing, salty olives, capers and Parmesan.
Prep Time12 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time22 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mediterranean, Vegetarian
Servings: 3

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds fresh tomatoes, any colour and shape, Note 1 (about 2 large tomatoes)
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup kalamata olives, pits removed, roughly chopped (or other olives)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (or shaved if preferred)
  • 1/2 pound baby rigatoni or other small pasta (about 2 cups)

Marinade

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoon chopped capers, rinsed (or 1 teaspoon anchovy paste)
  • 1.5 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste

Instructions

  • PREPARE TOMATO-OLIVE MIXTURE: Cut tomatoes into chunks and place in a medium bowl. Add olives, basil, lemon zest and cheese.
  • MAKE MARINADE: In a small bowl, whisk vigorously olive oil, lemon juice, capers, garlic, red pepper flakes and salt. Pour over chopped tomatoes and olive mixture. Set the mixture aside to marinate at room temperature while you boil the pasta.
  • MAKE PASTA: Put the pasta large pot of salted water that's boiling and cook as per package instructions or until al dente (with a slight firmness). Drain (do not rinse), reserving a cup of the pasta cooking water (to adjust pasta consistency if needed later).
  • ASSEMBLE AND SERVE: Put pasta and tomato mixture into the pot (not over the heat). Mix together, adding some of the pasta liquid – if needed – for a smooth consistency. Drizzle with a touch of olive oil. Adjust seasonings adding a pinch of salt, more basil, etc. Transfer to large shallow bowl and serve with a green salad and some crusty bread or slices of cured meats if desired.

Recipe Notes

  1. Tomato options: Use any type of fresh tomatoes. Heirloom, beefsteak or Roma tomatoes are great choices. Ripe cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes will also work, though I prefer larger ones for this dish.
  2. Pasta options: My sister used rigatoni. I prefer smaller pasta like baby penne pasta or even thin spaghetti like vermicelli. You can also use whole wheat pasta or gluten-free pasta.
  3. Other variations and substitutes
    • Use either shaved or grated parmesan cheese. For a vegan version, use vegan parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast.
    • For the marinade try other seasonings. Black pepper, thyme, oregano, or for a kick of heat, a pinch of cayenne pepper.
    • Add ins:
      • Blanched asparagus cut into small pieces
      • Toasted almond slivers or pine nuts
      • Cooked sausage, smoked chicken, shrimp or fish for a more substantial non vegetarian meal.
  4. Make ahead: To make this pasta ahead, prepare the tomato-olive mixture and marinade a couple of hours ahead, then just before serving, make the pasta and toss it all together.
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Nutrition values are estimates for a fairly large portion.Β 
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Nutrition

Calories: 536kcal | Carbohydrates: 66g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 7mg | Sodium: 511mg | Potassium: 617mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 1836IU | Vitamin C: 29mg | Calcium: 139mg | Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?We’d love you to rate it above under ‘rate this recipe’ or in the comment section below. Thanks!
4.87 from 23 votes (23 ratings without comment)

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