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The Cherry Tomato Can Stay

August 2, 2011

Every year I debate whether to plant a cherry tomato plant.  I purchased a Sun Sugar hybrid on a whim this year at a local store in town, thinking hey it might at least be a nice color addition to a salad or something.

On the pro side it’s nice to get some fresh tomatoes from the garden weeks ahead of the big juicy beefsteaks that ripen oh-so-slow.  And you really can’t beat the pops of color they add to a dish. 

But eventually you notice the plant starts to grow and grow and eventually overcome a 3, 4 maybe even 5 foot radius area, even when staked or caged.  This year mine has grown across to the bed on its north and completely filled the path in that area.  It has also covered nearby carrots and I’m pretty sure it is part of the reason my eggplant is on its way to vegetable plant heaven. 

Sun Sugar Cherry tomato

Even someone with a black thumb will get a giant monster of a plant, which produces fruit at an insanely quick rate.  I know I could prune, but it’s just not my thing. 

At first it’s always:

 “Yes! I get to pick some cherry tomatoes”

Then a week goes by and it’s:

“Gee I better go pick those cherries again, I need to stay ahead of them this year.”

Then another:

“Ugh!  I don’t want to pick them anymore – that plant is going to eat me.”

Then, well:

“Stupid !@*$&@#$ cherry tomatoes!” 

Sooo yeah.  I’ve just never had a good relationship with the itty bitty tomatoes.  It’s all shiny, new and wonderful in the beginning and then usually ends up looking like the plant puked up rotten fruit all over the garden by September.  Let’s not mention those volunteers that will pop up next season.

Oh I know you’ve been there before, right?

But wait….

This just might be the year of cherry tomato revelation for the Life in Green household.  I made a super easy dinner last night with a fresh harvest of cherry tomatoes.  And I about died.  Like whoa…cherry tomatoes can be this good?  And I can use up a bunch all in one easy meal? 

Call it an epiphany…I think I love me some cherry tomatoes and am no longer frightened by the gazillion pounds produced by one plant.

I owe it all to a post from Feb 2007 (eons in blog years) by Smitten Kitchen, in which I stumbled upon when searching for cherry tomato recipe ideas recently.  I’m way smitten with this food blog…and have been for a while. 🙂 

I love it when I make something that can be life changing, and this Baked Tomato Sauce was just that. 

Baked Tomato Sauce

a smidge adapted from Smitten Kitchen (who got it from

3-4 T extra-virgin olive oil

1 lb of ripe cherry tomatoes, halved

1/3 C panko bread crumbs

1/3 C grated parmesan cheese

2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt & pepper to taste

1 lb of campanelle pasta (or your choice)

2 T fresh basil leaves, chopped or torn

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a 9×13 baking dish with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. 

Place tomatoes cut side up in the dish.

Cherry tomatos halved

In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, cheese and garlic and toss with a fork to mix well.  Sprinkle the bread-crumb mixture over the tomatoes, making sure that each cut side is well covered with the crumb mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then the final tablespoon of olive oil. Bake until the tomatoes are cooked through and starting to brown on top, about 20 minutes.

Cherry tomatoes Sprinkled with bread crumb mixture

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente. Timing it to be finished just as the tomatoes get done.

Plate pasta and top with baked sauce and sprinkle with fresh basil. 

Baked Tomato Sauce with Campedelle pasta

Dig in and enjoy it.  If you’re like me, they’ll be ooohs and ahhhs and mmms and then your heart will melt just a little cause you just had one of the easiest, simplest and freshest meals this year. 

Seriously this pasta dish made me giddy.  Though I’m sure the wine helped a little. 😉

Baked Tomato Sauce from Smitten Kitchen

I think you should make it too.  No cherry tomatoes growing in your backyard?  Ask your neighbor or a friend….I bet they wouldn’t mind giving some away.  But don’t ask me cause for right now I’m in love with my cherry tomatoes and not ready to part with anymore just yet.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 2, 2011 5:58 pm

    I didn’t plant cherry tomatoes last year because they are such a space hog, but then I missed them so I went back to growing them this year. Love this recipe! Hope I get enough tomatoes to try it.

    • August 3, 2011 8:00 am

      Yes you should definitely do this recipe with your cherry tomatoes. I was in awe of how good and simple it was.


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