Sunday, August 10

Penne with Fresh Ricotta and Baby Heirloom Tomatoes

baby heirloom tomato penne lemon

If the farmers' market were giving out superlatives, heirloom tomatoes would get "most popular." No contest. Today there were several different farmers selling them from $5-7 per pound, and each table had a line of people at least four deep waiting to buy some.

Considering that one tomato weighs about half a pound or more, you could be in for a real sticker shock if you buy 3 or 4 of them! People don't seem to mind though; probably because after years of eating tasteless, hard, dry supermarket tomatoes, it's worth paying a little more to get heirlooms that taste as exciting as they look.

baby heirloom tomatoes

Who can resist brilliantly colored, endearingly odd-ball shaped tomatoes with whimsical names such as Big Rainbow, Green Zebra, and Brandywine? If, however, you don't want to break a $20 just to try a tomato, then consider baby heirlooms instead. These diminutive members of the heirloom tomato family come in a dazzling kaleidoscope of colors. Unlike their larger brethren, however, they tend to be neatly round, oval, or teardrop in shape. Most baby heirlooms are the size of cherry tomatoes, though once in a while, you'll find one the size of a golf ball.

baby heirloom tomatoes and basil
(baby heirloom tomatoes with their best friend, basil)

Baby heirloom tomatoes give you the experience of eating an heirloom tomato but at a fraction of the cost. Plus they're just the right size to pop into your mouth as you pass them on your kitchen counter.

Where can you find baby heirloom tomatoes? Though farmers' markets and specialty markets are the most reliable, they're actually starting to show up at many traditional supermarkets as well. Trader Joe's sells them for about $2.50 a container (now, that's a bargain).

Though petite, baby heirloom tomatoes are bursting with big tomato flavor, which you'll savor in this perfect-for-summertime, easy dinner: Penne with Fresh Ricotta and Baby Heirloom Tomatoes. Fresh ricotta cheese adds silky creaminess, while tangy lemon and aromatic fresh herbs enhance the tomatoes' flavor.

baby heirloom tomato pasta close up

Penne with Fresh Ricotta and Baby Heirloom Tomatoes

Serves 4
Print recipe only here.

8 ounces penne
1 cup baby heirloom tomatoes halved**
1/4 cup mixed fresh herbs, such as basil, chives, parsley, and tarragon
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
salt, to taste
7-8 cranks of freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmiagiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for garnish
1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts

In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, herbs, lemon zest and juice, and salt & pepper. Set aside.

Cook pasta in salted water according to directions, being sure to keep it al dente (cooked through yet firm). Drain and return to pot. Stir in the ricotta cheese until pasta is evenly coated. Stir in grated Parmiagiano-Reggiano. Add the marinated tomatoes, and toss until just combined. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and some extra grated cheese, and serve immediately.

**If you are unable to find baby heirloom tomatoes, then cherry or grape tomatoes make a good substitute.

Since these babies aren't your everyday tomato, I'm sending them to Marija of Palachinka, this week's host of the ever-popular Weekend Herb Blogging, created by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen.

You might also like:

Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Chives and Thyme

Baby Artichoke and Asparagus Risotto

Grilled Shrimp and Avocado Salad

Wild Rocket (Wild Arugula) Pasta

Save This Page on


Cate said...

Looks like a great way to celebrate summer's bounty, Susan! Happened to pick some up today at our local farmer's market, and now I know just what to do with them. ;)

Anonymous said...

I love how you take photos of the lovely tomatoes. Looks great for a summer dish.

Manggy said...

Oh, I can just imagine the spectacular dishes those tomatoes would make (plus, the names sound so Lord-of-the-Rings-y, so that's a plus)! The pasta's so fresh and gorgeous.

Amy said...

Wow this looks gorgeous! I've never seen baby heirlooms before but now I definitely need to keep an eye out for these.

Sarah said...

I bought a strawberry basket of baby heirloom's yesterday at our (Santa Monica) Farmer's Market for $3.50 - they work better for us (than their $4/lb huge brethren) for our small family as I'm the major tomato lover and it's hard for us to finish one big one but can easily use the smaller heirlooms all week long.

I love your recipe! Yum!


Jaime said...

wow, those tomatoes are stunning!! this looks like a great weeknight meal

Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said...

Susan I hear you! I "heart" tomatoes and this recipe using the heirloom variety is absolutely perfect...great flavour combinations yet again!

Anonymous said...

I TOTALLY wish I'd read your post before dropping $7.50 on two heirloom tomatoes yesterday at the farmer's market!! Baby heirlooms would have worked just fine for me :-) Your pasta came out just lovely!

Anonymous said...

Awesome, Awesome, Awesome! I just had goat cheese filled ravioli in heirloom tomato jus at Mustards in Napa Valley. Susan, your recipe is "can't miss"...


eatingclubvancouver_js said...

It is indeed hard to get the heirloom tomatoes at the farmers' markets, because of the long lines. Chasing tomatoes is cutting into my sleep time. ;)

Your pasta dish looks fresh and summery and absolutely delish.

Deeba PAB said...

An heirloom preparation Susan, stunning & beautiful as ever. Love the little ones in every shape possible. How funny it we either get tomatoes or we don't!!! I love the choice of stuff you can pick up...& am glad you make the most of it!!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Such exquisite and cute little tomatoes! That dish is gorgeous!



Aparna Balasubramanian said...

Those are the most beautiful tomatoes I've seen.
And pasta, cheese and tomatoes sound and look delicious.

Anonymous said...

What gorgeous little jewels! And what a wonderful recipe to feature them, Susan!

Anonymous said...

Looks adorable...those baby heirlooms. love how they liven up the pasta too!

Elly said...

I love heirloom tomatoes. Mmm. And every other ingredient in this pasta. If this pasta were walking down the street, it would be getting whistled and catcalled by me ;)

Anonymous said...

The nasty heat of summer (you remember what an east coast city summer is like, right? I'm NOT bitter, not really!) is entirely justified by tomatoes. Real tomatoes. Heirlooms and Jerseys. And lord, your pasta looks delicious!

Mishmash ! said...

Susan, your pictures are absolutely beautiful.....its like capturing the beauty of summer thru ur lens....and the pasta dish looks just tempting.....luckily, at our new place, farmers market is really these days I look forward to saturday mornings...:)

Kara said...

Our overgrown tomato plants might not produce heirlooms, but we have too many cute grape and cherry tomatoes to skip this fresh and delicious looking recipe... can't wait to try this - I'll grab some fresh chives and basil from my herb garden on the way in! Not to mention, ANYthing with toasted pine nuts is a winner in my book. YUM!

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, Susan... AMAZING! My mouth is totally watering. Your photos are top notch.

vb said...

Yum. That's all I got. Just yum.

Clumbsy Cookie said...

Those little tomatoes are just too adorable! Beautiful pictures too!

Lori Lynn said...

Tomato's best friend, basil. Cute!
That dish looks so fresh and inviting.

Le Flâneur Novice said...

What a colorful and cheerfull post this is!

Thanks god that I'm not 'too much' hungry to rush to kitchen and have a try :)) (But there is no tomatoes like that at home now :-/) Thanks again! lol

Anonymous said...

This is such a pretty batch of pictures, and the picture of the finished dish makes me instantly hungry. Beautiful!

I keep a bowl of cherry tomatoes on my counter too and it's one of my favorite (constant!) summer snacks.

My favorite heirloom cherry tomato is called black cherry. I've grown it the last few years but didn't find plants this year. And those little orange sungolds (which I don't think are heirlooms but are super sweet and delicious) are another favorite.

Deborah said...

You know, I don't think I've ever actually tried an heirloom tomato before. But I do have a surplus of garden tomatoes right now. I'm picking hundreds of sweet 100s a week right now, and I'm betting they would go perfectly in this dish!

bee said...

heirooms are as easy or difficult to grow as other tomatoes. i really don't understand why they are such a rip off.

Marija said...

Here we have only the red once and they are really expensive. I remember when I was little my grandfather grew tiny tomatoes and they were sized of a marble. I found them on the net, they are called red currant tomatoes. Unfortunately, we lost the seeds over the years and I've never seen them on the markets :(.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I've been waiting to see some of those beautiful multicolored little tomatoes in my local farmer's markets for just this purpose. I want some pasta with little multicolored tomatoes so badly!

Katie Zeller said...

Reminds me of a song "There's only two things that money can't buy - and that's true love and home-grown tomatoes"
Those look wonderful! The new area we're moving two has lots of local markest which I'm really looking forward to - And it's the main tomato region for France!
Oh... Your pasta looks to be the perfect showcase for them!

Martissima said...

a perfect Italian paste, between my preferred ones, compliments always has of the good plates, kisses!

Heather said...

wow, susan, this looks utterly simple and delicious! i do love heirloom tomatoes... their quirky names really are quite endearing :)

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Cate-Yay! Perfect timing.

didally-It was fun. Thanks!

mark-Lord of the Ring-y, huh? Maybe that explains why Jeff loves them so much.

amy-Oh, please do. You won't be disappointed.

sarah-Exactly. That's a reasonable price too, especially for such a wonderful fm, like SM. Glad you like the pasta too.

jaime-It is--fast and easy.

peterg-Many thanks.

kathy-Aw, shoot. I bet they were fabulous though, right? :)

marc-Ooh, your pasta sounds heavenly.

evjs-Here's hoping you catch some shut-eye. ;)

deeba-We are fortunate to have such a wonderful array of beautiful produce.

rosa-Well, thank you kindly!

aparna-They are pretty, aren't they? :)

michelle-Thanks a bunch!

veron-They pack a big punch for little guys. :)

elly- :) Now, that's a good comment.

ann-You said it! When you bite into a juicy tomato, times slows down, doesn't it?

shn-That'll be exciting-- learning a new market and meeting new people!

kara-That's so cool that you can just go into your yard for veggies and herbs. Enjoy!

kristen-I appreciate that.


ccookie-Glad you like them!

lorilynn- Well, they are, right? :)

bal-I know what you mean; some days I try to eat a snack before commenting. :)

julie-The sungolds were all over the fm yesterday; everyone is smitten with their color. Sorry you didn't find your favorite this year. :(

deborah-Oh, they would, for sure! Let me know if you need a couple of extra hands for picking. :)

bee-I think it's like most things--it's all about the packaging. And they've got some good-looking packaging.

marija-Redcurrant tomatoes, huh? How funny you should mention that, because yesterday one farmer had the tiniest tomatoes I had ever seen. I wonder if that's what they were.

sdcook-If you can't find them, then call me and I'll make some. :)

katie-I have never heard of that song. But ain't that the truth! The main tomato region in France? So when are you gonna invite me over? ;)


heather-They are endearing, aren't they? :)

Annie said...

Just Beautiful!

It is worth the money for the tomatoes just for those photos...

I would frame those and hang them in the kitchen~ they are gorgeous!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I am green -- and striped, and yellow, and red, and purple -- with envy! We never see baby heirlooms at our local farmers market; I have to go so far afield to find them that it almost doesn't make sense to make the drive. And yet, eating baby heirlooms is like eating candy!

Cris said...

Love the picture of the colored tomatoes! You photograph pasta so well, I am sure they taste even better!

Michelle said...

Simply beautiful. Ricotta is one of my favorite cheeses. I'm hungry right now.

Elle said...

Those are darling tomatoes...didn't know heirlooms grew in baby size.
The pasta dish is so perfect for summer...herbs, tomatoes, cheese, YUM!

Anonymous said...

i simply need to eat more heirloom tomatoes. just recently, fine cooking magazine (if i'm not wrong) had an article about heirloom tomatoes, i saw lots of green zebra tomatoes everywhere in food bloggers' blogs.

Jenny said...

What a beautiful looking pasta. Those tomatoes are just perfect. I can just imagine how yummy this is. Great pics!

Anonymous said...

Another wonderful recipe! I am hooked on the heirlooms with all their wild colors and stripes, and fortunately can find the baby tomatoes locally. So far I have found that the larger varieties have more flavor and sweetness, though.

Stella said...

I wish I lived near that market of yours Susan!
Such a gorgeous dish, I'm eating it with my eyes!

Darius T. Williams said...

So what can I say besides, "can I have some?" I love all these ingredients and mixed together, this sounds prefect.


Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I get all tingly when I find these little beauties at the farmers market. As it happens I just completed a salad with these the market again on Saturday!!!

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Those baby heirlooms are so doggone cute, who could resist?

Patricia Scarpin said...

Susan, I love how fresh and simple this dish is. Perfect to let the tomatoes shine - they are so adorable!

ExpatChef said...

Now, how did you guess we got a bag of these AND fresh ricotta from our CSA last week? :)

Elle said...

I've had those baby heirlooms from Trader Joe's--they're so fresh and delicious! And in a dish like this, they must really shine. It looks fantastic!

Proud Italian Cook said...

I also buy these from Trader Joes, you just can't beat the flavor! And paired with the fresh ricotta, and basil, you can't get any better than that! Where's my fork!!

Debbie said...

The tomatoes and their colors are just beautiful and your pasta dish looks delicious!!!

Kalyn Denny said...

I love heirlooms! None of mine are ripe yet though, boo.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

annie-That's terribly kind to say.

lydia-I wish I could share some with you.

cris-Thanks so much!

michelle-It's perfect in pasta, isn't it?

elle-Yum, indeed! :)

eliza-I love green zebras; they have a wonderful citrusy flavor.

jenny-Thank you so much!

lynda-I think the larger ones have more variety of flavor for sure.



val-I love the weekends for the fm's!

lynn-I couldn't!

patricia-And shine they do!

expat chef-Really? Awesome!

elle-They are good, aren't they?

marie-You better go get it!

debbie-Many thanks!

kalyn-But you'll have them in your own garden!

Meeta K. Wolff said...

fresh, simple and absolutely delish! pasta always tastes perfect with fresh ingredients. Susan, lovely colorful pictures!

LyB said...

That is such a fresh and simple meal, perfect for those busy summer days!

Kristen said...

"$5-7 per POUND?!" the poor grad student shrieks while raising an eyebrow in the direction of her rapidly ripening Brandywines. Damn, I could almost pay my electric bill if I could score that kind of price for them! Though then I'd be depriving myself of the exquisite pleasure...

Kelly @ Love Well said...

You take the BEST pictures of food, Susan. I'm always hungry after I visit your blog.

I just put baby heirlooms on my TJ's shopping list.

Catherine said...

that looks amazing! the simple dishes are so often the best.

Anonymous said...

This dish looks so yummy. I can't wait to prepare it for my family.

NKP said...

What great little tomatoes. We never see the little coloured ones here, just red or maybe yellow.
How fabulous.

Jeanne said...

Oh, those babies are too adorable for words!! Don't really see the baby heirlooms here though :( DId get some spectacularly sweet and flavourful baby plum tomatoes from the Isle of Wight at a market last week - I could eat them like candy. Love the vibrant colours in you r picture too :)

Anonymous said...

This looks delicious - the perfect recipe to highlight the flavours of summer. Thanks!