Simple pasta with 6 ingredients everyone should know

I’m in pastry school, I work in a bakery, and I have a few stationary book gigs.

When I come home after a long day of baking at school or at work, the last thing I want to do is cook dinner.

Most nights, I go for something frozen, but I make my favorite basic tomato pasta once a week.

I make this quick and easy pasta when I had a long day at work

Tomato, garlic, lemon, nutritional yeast, butter

As simple as that, these ingredients together make up a great sauce.

Susie Heller

The recipe isn’t groundbreaking: a sauce made with cherry tomatoes, butter, garlic, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and salt. I like to eat it with rigatoni because of the way the pasta absorbs the sauce, but any pasta will work.

Most of the flavor comes from cherry tomatoes, which are cooked in butter over low heat for about an hour until they ooze and produce a light, sweet sauce.

I always have everything I need for this pasta on hand, but it really is better in the summer when the tomatoes are in season and naturally sweet.

This pasta dish impresses guests but is actually very easy

Tomatoes, butter, garlic and yeast in a Dutch oven

Any sturdy container should work well for this step.

Susie Heller

This pasta looks impressive, but is actually very little effort and comes together in about an hour.

Chopped garlic, whole cherry tomatoes, and 3 tablespoons of butter go into a heavy-bottomed skillet, like a Dutch oven. I put a lid on the pan and let the tomatoes simmer slowly for about 45 minutes.

At this point, the tomatoes should open up to form a watery sauce. If any whole tomatoes remain, you can blast them with the back of a wooden spoon.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling, salted water until tender (about seven minutes) and provide about 1/2 cup of pasta water before draining.

macaroni with sauce

It may not look the best at this point, but trust the process.

Susie Heller

Add the pasta, nutritional yeast, remaining butter, and some of the reserved pasta water in the saucepan with the tomatoes and cook over medium heat.

The sauce may look thick and fluffy – this is normal. Keep stirring, adding the reserved pasta water as needed.

After a few minutes of constant stirring, add one last piece of butter and lemon juice.

I usually serve it with sautéed kale and some crusty bread to get rid of any extra sauce.

The real beauty of this recipe is that it is endlessly customizable

pasta in a bowl

This simple pasta is great for summer and is quick to make.

Susie Heller

This pasta is easy to prepare and endlessly customizable to what you have and what you like. I have not yet found a group that is not good.

Putting a tablespoon of miso paste in the reserved pasta water creates a sweet and nutty flavor. Adding 1 to 2 teaspoons of gochujang, a fermented Korean red pepper paste, makes a hot and sweet sauce. Finishing with a sprinkle of heavy cream or coconut milk turns the dish into something like penne alla vodka.

Parmesan cheese is also a great alternative to nutritional yeast, and is often easy to find in the store. Onions, green onion whites, and shallots can be used in place of or in addition to garlic.

You can even make the recipe vegan with any vegan butter substitute.


  • 3-4 cloves minced garlic
  • 5 tablespoons salted butter, divided
  • 1 liter cherry tomatoes, whole
  • 1/3 can rigatoni or any pasta shape
  • Quarter cup of nutritional yeast
  • 1 large lemon squeezed
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Peel and chop three to four garlic cloves, and place them in a heavy-bottomed dish (like a Dutch oven) over low heat with the tomatoes and 3 tablespoons of butter. Simmer, covered, for 1 hour – stirring halfway through – until tomatoes begin to burst.
  2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat and add 1/3 packet of pasta. Cook until slightly less than cooked through, about seven to eight minutes. Drain the pasta and reserve ¼ cup of the pasta water.
  3. Before adding the cooked pasta to the tomatoes, crush any remaining whole tomatoes with a wooden spoon.
  4. Add the pasta, some reserved pasta water, nutritional yeast, and a tablespoon of butter to the tomatoes, adding more pasta water as needed. Stir constantly until the water evaporates, forming a thick sauce.
  5. We finish with salt, remaining butter and lemon juice. Stir until the sauce coats the pasta and looks glossy.
  6. Serve in individual bowls with salt and pepper to taste.

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