Orecchiette With Pesto and Oven Roasted Tomatoes

When I brought this to the dinner table last week, Little Boy #1, who always loves pasta, was visibly disappointed. “Oh, I was really hoping we were having pasta that wasn’t so… green.”

And then he ate two bowls and the leftovers for breakfast.

The classic Caprese salad flavor combination of tomato, basil, and mozzarella.

Orecchiette means little ear, and you can see that the shape of this pasta is indeed something like a little ear. Are you happy to know that? Or does it creep you out a little? Just checking…

This pasta dish has the classic Caprese salad flavor combination of tomato, basil, and mozzarella. It is the Italian flag in a bowl, and it’s a beautiful thing. It’s simple, healthy, fresh and full of flavor.

The classic Caprese salad flavor combination of tomato, basil, and mozzarella.

If you’ve never made your own pesto before, you are going to love how easy it is to make! Of course, if you need to save time and have a favorite brand that you already love, I totally understand and will not judge. I will not be a pesto snob!

The classic Caprese salad flavor combination of tomato, basil, and mozzarella.

Roasting the grape tomatoes in the oven concentrates their natural sweetness, and makes a girl who’s actually not very fond of the little fellows a tomato convert. True story.

The classic Caprese salad flavor combination of tomato, basil, and mozzarella.

Aren’t those tiny balls of fresh mozzarella the cutest? Make sure you set your mozzarella out just before you start to make this so that it has a little bit of time to come to room temperature. When you add it to the warm pasta, it softens and settles into the little orecchiette cups so perfectly. Like a match made in heaven I tell you.

Just FYI, I found the orecchiette, fresh basil, pine nuts, and fresh mozzarella at Trader Joe’s. Also some lovely white tulips for my kitchen counter.

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Orecchiette With Pesto and Oven Roasted Tomatoes
Serves: 6
For the Pesto
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup roasted pine nuts
  • salt to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 16 ounces orecchiette pasta
  • 1 batch of homemade pesto (recipe below)
  • 1 cup fresh mozzarella (Ciliegine), sliced in half and room temperature
For the Pesto
  1. Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender and process until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary.
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and set a large pot of salted water on high heat to boil for the pasta.
  2. In a small bowl, toss the tomatoes with a teaspoon of olive oil. Lay them in a single layer on a Silpat lined baking sheet, and roast for 15-18 minutes.
  3. Cook pasta according to directions and drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
  4. Add the freshly made pesto to your pasta and stir to coat. If the pesto is too thick for your liking, you can thin it out a bit with the reserved pasta water, adding a little at a time.
  5. Add in the oven roasted tomatoes and room temperature fresh mozzarella. The warmth of the pasta will soften the cheese.
  6. Taste the pasta and add salt as needed.


  1. says

    Love the idea of turning all the fabulous flavors of a Caprese salad into a pasta dish. Nothing beats the beautiful flavors of roasted tomatoes – it makes such a big difference to take that extra time. And I totally agree with you – the tiny mozzarella balls are the cutest. Definitely have to make this dish soon!

  2. says

    Hehehe! Your son sounds a lot like my brother (not so little anymore). He doesn’t really seem to like the color green. I bet even he couldn’t resist this one. Love the use of orecchiate (I think I have too much fun saying that word) and how similar it is to mozzarella in size. I must make a trip to Trader Joe’s ;).

    • says

      I know what you mean! I loved hearing my sweet husband trying to pronounce it when he was proofreading my post for me :) Thanks for stopping by to say hi!

  3. Suzi says

    I replaced the pine nuts with pistachios, because pine nuts are wicked expensive and pistachios are cheaper. It still tasted great!

  4. Nicole says

    Is this intended to be served as an entree? Or, may it be served cold as a summer / pasta salad? Looks delicious and unique.

  5. Debra Balka says

    Very last minute question for you…I’m making 2 of your recipes tonight, for the first time. So far the avocados corn bean appetizer is finished, in the fridge and from what I tasted is delicious. I’m wondering how soon in advance, if at all, could I make the orecchiette with roasted tomatoes,mozzarella etc., I’d like to make ahead of time and warm before dinner but that may not be recommended…thanks!

      • Debra Balka says

        Thank you so much for responding last evening. So nice of you!
        Both recipes were excellent and I’m forwarding them and your site to my BFF! Thank you!

  6. Ashley says

    I stumbled on to your site and you indeed have some great recipes.Put me on the mailing list please.

  7. says

    I was looking for new ways to use up basil from my garden and came across this recipe. So good! It was a huge hit with my son and a perfect weeknight meal.

    • says

      So glad to hear you and your son enjoyed, Tara! I haven’t made this dish in a while but I’m thinking it’s going on the menu this week.

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