Love and Olive Oil

Red Pesto Penne with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

Red Pesto Penne with Roasted Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

To say this was the best thing we’ve eaten in a long time would be an understatement. This was by far the best pasta dish I’ve had in recent memory. It’s 10:22 on Sunday morning and I’m salivating just thinking about it. The red pesto (sundried tomato pesto) is divine, the roasted cherry tomatoes are practically candy, and the goat cheese is just the icing on the cake.

The crazy thing is, I never liked tomatoes until about this time last year. It was then we discovered the treasure trove of heirloom tomatoes at the Farmers’ Market. A good, ripe heirloom tomato will convert even the harshest of tomato critics. Now, just a measly 12 months after that discovery, our grocery cart is consistently filled with 3 or 4 different kinds of tomatoes each week (who’d a thunk?). Right behind the heirloom tomatoes, my favorites are the bite sized cherry tomatoes.

This week the farmers market had some yellow ones in addition to the normal red, and we thought they’d be perfect for this dish. I think using good tomatoes makes all the difference in the world. Because while barely ripe hot house tomatoes might suffice in the depths of winter, in the summer, you’re crazy not to make the most of the bounty available to you. Locally grown, vine ripened, perfectly plump and juicy… Tennessee tomatoes just might be the greatest thing ever. Well, right behind cupcakes. And goat cheese.

Red Pesto Penne with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

Makes 4 servings. Recipe adapted from 101 Cookbooks.

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16 oz. penne pasta
2 ounces sundried tomatoes
2 medium cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
3 handfuls of baby spinach tossed with a glug of olive oil and a big pinch of salt.
2/3 cup oven-roasted cherry tomatoes
a bit of crumbled goat cheese


To oven-roast cherry tomatoes: Heat oven to 350F degrees. Cut each tomato in half and arrange in a large oven-proof baking dish. Mix together a big splash of olive oil, a spoonful of brown sugar, and a few pinches of salt. Pour this over the tomatoes. Gently toss them a bit, making sure they all get coated. Arrange tomatoes cut-side up. Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes or so, until the tomatoes are shrunken and sweet.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously and cook the penne per package instructions. Drain, but reserve about one cup of the hot pasta water (important!).

In the meantime, make the sun-dried tomato pesto by pulsing the sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, pepper flakes, olive oil, thyme, and salt in a food processor until it comes together into a textured crumble. Add the walnuts, and pulse a few more times – see photo. Set aside.

Combine 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water in a large mixing bowl along with two-thirds of the sun-dried tomato pesto. Add the pasta and gently toss. Add more of the hot pasta water if needed to thin the pesto out – it should make a nice chunky sauce. Taste and add more of the pesto if you like – it’s really a matter of personal preference at this point.

Arrange the baby spinach on a large platter and top with everything from the pasta mixing bowl. Top with the cherry tomatoes and a bit of crumbled goat cheese.

All images and text © / Love & Olive Oil

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  1. Hello, this looks so yummy! One question on the red pesto penne, do I use sun dried tomatoes that are soaked in oil in a jar? thanks! sandra

  2. Wow, so tasty looking! Dinner tonight ;o) Love goat cheese sprinkles on pastas, pizzas and salads!

    Can I join your mailing list by email? I don’t subscribe to any of the other methods above. Or am I missing the email section? Most of foodie blogs come to me via email.

    Thanks, because I don’t want to miss anything! ;o)

  3. I tried this recipe tonight and I loved it. The sweetness of the sun dried tomatoes with the sweetness of the cherry tomatoes was a great combination. And the red pepper added just enough heat.

    One note: the ingredients list pine nuts, while the directions mention walnuts. I’m not sure how walnuts would taste in there :)

  4. I came across your blog a few weeks ago and I think I’ve made 3 or 4 of your recipes already–all good. Just made this one for dinner tonight and both my husband and I were very pleased. He wouldn’t eat the cherry tomatoes ’cause he’s weird, so I got to have them all. :) The only change I made was to add some fresh basil in with the spinach, since I had some that needed to be used, which added nice flavor.

  5. The title of this recipe sounded really good, but your description is what really sold me! I love the recipes for 101 Cookbooks, and this I will be trying this very soon. Thanks!

  6. Looks like a great pasta combination! You should submit this to Presto Pasta Nights!

  7. Looks amazing.
    Wonderful photography also!

  8. Wow – I love it! Just saw the 101 Cookbooks recipe earlier this week, and enjoyed seeing your take on it as well. Beautiful!

    Also, I recently began following your blog, and just wanted to say well done!! Absolutely love the creativity and thought you put into your recipes, and the photos and writing are fantastic! Keep it up, and congrats on tying the knot! :)

  9. Oops, sorry for the double comment!

  10. Oh, my gosh! Your description is so good, I have to make this ASAP! Plus, this is the first time I’ve seen your blog.Can’t wait to poke around, it’s lovely!

  11. Oh, my gosh! Your description is so good, I have to make this ASAP! Plus, this is the first time I’ve seen your blog. Can’t wait to look around more, it’s beautiful.

  12. Your description is fantastic. I’d love to have this tomorrow! And eating fresh tomatoes in the winter should be against the law! Summer food is the best.

  13. This looks like perfect pasta to me.

  14. oh my goodness — that photo made me salivate before I even started reading about the recipe! Can’t wait to try it.

  15. I love this! I’ve been seeing red pesto around a lot… I’ll need to give it a shot!

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