This quick and easy Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta recipe comes together in the time it takes to cook the penne! Sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, basil, garlic and parmesan cheese add textures and flavors reminiscent of pesto pasta.
It’s hard to believe that I’m only now sharing this sun-dried tomato pasta recipe, considering I’ve been preparing it at home for over 10+ years. It was my favorite fast and easy dinner recipe when I lived by myself, and I’d prepare it for Jeff when he and I were first dating.
It’s essentially a deconstructed pesto pasta, so you get all of those wonderful pesto flavors including basil, pine nuts, garlic, and parmesan (plus sun-dried tomatoes, obviously). However, this is better than pesto pasta, because you get to enjoy all of the separate textures of the individual ingredients.
I’m not sure why I’ve never shared this sun-dried tomato pasta recipe before now. I think perhaps I was too lazy to take the time to measure everything. After eying out the ingredients for so long, it was surprisingly difficult to get the flavors to taste exactly right while using measuring cups. It took a few tries!
How to Make Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta
What I love about this dish is that the whole thing comes together in the time it takes to cook the pasta. It’s incredibly satisfying. Here are a few of my top tips to get the best results:
- Butter is the one ingredient in this recipe that keeps it from truly being a “deconstructed pesto” pasta. You can substitute olive oil if you prefer, but I highly recommend sticking with the butter. It gets so bubbly and fragrant while the pine nuts and garlic are cooking. Sometimes I let the butter brown slightly, as you can see in the photo below. Other times it doesn’t brown at all and the dish is still amazing. That’s up to you, and whether you’re comfortable browning butter.
- If your grocery store carries it, I recommend using Parmigiano-Reggiano instead of regular parmesan. While it’s usually a bit more expensive, the flavor is more nutty and complex. It’s worth it. Regardless of which type of parmesan you use, I also recommend grating it with a microplane zester if you have one. It grates the cheese in a way that just melts into the pasta. Even the finest setting on my box grater doesn’t do as good of a job.
- This recipe will work with either plain or seasoned sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil. I’ve used both options. I do think the jarred versions with Italian seasoning add just a hint of something special, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to find them.
- This is a very forgiving recipe. As I noted above, I’ve been eying out the ingredients for years. I’d try to follow the recipe closely the first time if you’re a beginner cook, but in general you can absolutely play with the amount of pine nuts, garlic, basil, sun-dried tomatoes, and butter. If you make this again (I bet you will), try experimenting with the ratios!
What’s the Difference Between Dry and Oil-Packed Sun-Dried Tomatoes?
Dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes have a dense, chewy texture similar to dried fruit, and are sold in packages or sometimes in the bulk bin aisle. They often need to be rehydrated before using in recipes.
Oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes are the same product, but the dried tomatoes are packed in oil and sometimes flavorings like Italian seasonings. They are sold in jars, either as whole sun-dried tomatoes, large pieces, or julienne slices.
You can read more about both types of sun-dried tomatoes in the handy article from The Kitchn.
More 30 Minute Meals
If you like this sun-dried tomato pasta and want to check out more 30 minute dinner ideas, you may also like my Sheet Pan Shrimp Scampi, Teriyaki Salmon, and Crispy Baked Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Garlic!
Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta
- 1 pound dried penne pasta, or pasta of your choice
- 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil (see notes)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish (see notes)
- 3 tablespoons thinly sliced basil, plus more for garnish
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, if needed
- Kosher salt to taste (I used 1/2 teaspoon)
- Ground black pepper to taste (I used 1/2 teaspoon)
- In a large pot of boiling, generously salted water, cook the penne until al dente, according to package instructions. Just before the pasta is finished, use a ladle or liquid measuring cup to carefully reserve about 1/4 cup of pasta water. Set aside. Drain the pasta and rinse with water to prevent sticking.
- While the pasta is cooking, place the sun-dried tomatoes on a paper towel-lined plate to drain off some of the excess oil, gently patting the tops dry (the oil doesn't need to be completely removed, but the tomatoes shouldn't be swimming in it). Coarsely chop the tomatoes and set aside.
- Melt the butter in medium-sized skillet over low heat. Add the pine nuts and cook, stirring frequently, until they smell fragrant and are just starting to brown, 4-5 minutes. You can adjust the heat to medium-low to speed up the process, but be careful to avoid burning the nuts and/or butter.
- Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the garlic. Continue stirring for 1 minute; the residual heat will cook the garlic.
- Transfer the pasta to a large bowl. Stir the sun-dried tomatoes, pine nut mixture, parmesan cheese, and basil, adding small splashes of pasta water to help bring the ingredients together. Make sure not to leave any of that nutty, garlic-infused butter behind in the skillet; scrape it all into the pasta. If it feels like the ingredients are clumping, you can optionally add some or all of the olive oil for additional slip.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide into serving bowls, garnish with additional parmesan and basil before serving.
- Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
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