Homemade Spicy Tomato Sauce Recipe for Pasta

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Have you ever bought a clamshell of cherry or grape tomatoes only to find you never use them all? This happens to me all the time, so rather than constantly throwing them into salads for the next 5 days, I prefer to turn them into a fresh, spicy pasta sauce.  

What Makes a Good Spicy Cherry Tomato Sauce

A good spicy tomato sauce recipe should have a kick of heat, though it should not numb your mouth. You will need to keep in mind that the acidity of the tomatoes makes peppers more pungent than normal. To help calibrate the spice level of my sauce, I’m going to use cayenne powder. This is a very all-purpose, low flavor impact, easily scalable heat component. 

Close photo of pasta topped with homemade spicy tomato sauce

My Approach to Spicy Tomato Sauce

This recipe is going to be a one-pan dish, you can use a sauce pan or, a rondeau pan for this as well. All of the ingredients will into the same pan at different times to layer flavors together, resulting in a fully developed tomato sauce. 

The Challenge with Cherry Tomato Sauce 

Cherry tomatoes can be difficult to pin down with a utensil because of how slippery they are. If you have ever tried to spear the last cherry tomato in a salad, you know how frustrating these vegetables can be. 

To deal with this challenge, I’m going to throw them into the pan whole and cook them until they break down (pop). This is going to do a couple things: 

  • It will develop some roasted flavors as the skin blisters from the heat
  • Allow me to grip them once they can’t roll around 
Cooking onions and cherry tomatoes on a pan until they break down

Pairings with Cherry Tomato Sauce

As you might have guessed, pasta goes extremely well with this sauce. Pair it with a red pepper pasta dough to bring out more of the tomato flavors. When it comes to proteins, I recommend sweet Italian sausage. A sweet protein will bring more complex flavors to the dish, rather than having a one-note flavor profile.

How to Make Spicy Cherry Tomato Sauce

The real secret with this tomato sauce recipe is in the multiple layers of flavor that you are developing with the ingredients. Before I dive into the directions for this recipe, let’s go over what flavors are developing throughout the process of making this sauce:

  1. Olive oil fennel and chili
    • By roasting your spices until fragrant, you release the oils that contain the flavor compounds. 
  2. Olive oil, cherry tomatoes, and onions in the pan
    • This will generate roasted flavors when the skin starts blistering and lightly charring. You will also concentrate the tomato flavors by removing water and caramelize the sugars in the tomato. 
    • You will also caramelize the sugars in the onion and further concentrate their flavor by removing water.
  3. Balsamic vinegar and sugar
    • When cooked down, the vinegar sugar mixture is similar to adding pomegranate syrup or barbeque sauce to your sauce. It is going to add complex fruit flavors and greatly increase the richness of your sauce.  
  4. Chicken stock
    • I’ll be reducing the chicken stock down to give a meatier concentrated flavor to my sauce 
  5. Worcester and tomato paste
    • Worcester adds umami to my sauce and tomato paste brings a lot of tomato flavor in as well. 
Pasta topped with spicy tomato sauce and herbs served in a white bowl placed on a white surface

Homemade Spicy Tomato Sauce

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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 104kcal


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fennel
  • 1 tablespoon red chili flake
  • 2.5 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 shake of Worcester
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste


  • Dice onion
  • Add olive oil to pan
  • Add fennel and chili flake to pan and toast until fragrant 
  • Place tomatoes, onion, and salt in pan and cook on medium heat
  • As soon as your tomatoes start popping or breaking down, add chicken stock, balsamic vinegar, sugar to the pan
  • Once sugar is dissolved add Worcester and tomato paste and stir
  • Once the sauce has reduced down (this can take about 20 minutes), add in chopped garlic cloves to finish
  • Add Cayenne 1 tsp at a time, stir, and taste till you are satisfied with heat level
  • Serve with your favorite pasta and enjoy!


Calories: 104kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 1869mg | Potassium: 392mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 1220IU | Vitamin C: 26mg | Calcium: 36mg | Iron: 1mg
Beginner's Guide to Making Sauces

Nathaniel Lee is an avid cook, drawing on his decades of home cooking and fine dining experience. He is a contributing chef at Mashed, and his recipes and contributions have been featured in Tasting Table, Edible Arrangements, Insanely Good Recipes, and The Daily Meal.

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