The Best Cherry Tomato Recipes

My favorite summer recipes happen to include my favorite vegetable to grow in my garden — tomatoes. In fact, there have been years when my Southern Californian garden consisted of nothing but tomatoes. We grew about 15 varieties of tomatoes, and four of those fell into the cherry tomato category. When summer arrived, so did hundreds of tomatoes, and I found myself creating summer cherry tomato recipes for every occasion.

The Best Cherry Tomatoes

We tend to think of cherry tomatoes as the small, round, red tomatoes found in restaurant house salads everywhere. However, over 100 different cherry tomato varieties exist. Besides the most common red variety, these conveniently sized tomatoes can also be any color that larger tomatoes can be, like yellow, purple, brown, and orange. They can vary in size from a pea all the way up to a golf ball.

What Are the Best Cherry Tomato Varieties?

Cherry tomatoes taste sweet and flavorful. Many times my choice of tomato will depend on the color and size that best match the dish. 

If the recipe calls for raw tomatoes, I will select a variety of tomatoes in different colors for an eye-popping presentation. For a brown tomato, I like chocolate cherry tomatoes. Orange sun gold cherry tomatoes and yellow sun sugar cherry tomatoes are both excellent choices. My favorite red cherry tomatoes are the tiny sweet pea currant tomatoes. The sweet pea currants are definitely the cutest tomato you’ll ever see. Yes, tomatoes can be cute!

cherry tomatoes in a strainer

Cherry Tomatoes Versus Grape Tomatoes

The biggest difference between cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes is the shape. Cherry tomatoes are more round and grape tomatoes are more oblong. Cherry tomatoes tend to be juicier and sweeter with a thinner skin. Because the thicker skinned grape tomatoes have a longer shelf life, you will find them more readily available in the grocery stores. Don’t fret if you cannot find cherry tomatoes. You can substitute grape tomatoes in almost any recipe without complication or great loss of flavor.

Favorite Summer Cherry Tomato Recipes

Growing up with Italian grandparents, I most closely associate tomatoes with Italian food. No matter the season, at least one dish typically contained tomatoes at our Sunday dinners. So, most of my favorite summer cherry tomato recipes have Italian roots.

Favorite Summer Cherry Tomato Salad: Burrata Panzanella

Inspired by the Tuscan bread and tomato salad, Panzanella, this recipe continues to steal the show at my summer dinners. If you’re a cheese lover like me, this is the salad for you!

Burrata Panzanella, made with cherry tomatoes

Adding an incredibly creamy center to mozzarella results in the amazing cheese; burrata. The creaminess of the burrata combined with the crunchiness of the bread makes this summer salad extra delicious. The variety of cherry tomato colors along with red onions make it especially beautiful. 

With just a handful of ingredients and a simple balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing, this cherry tomato salad can be prepared in less than half an hour. As my go-to salad recipe for entertaining, Burrata Panzanella can act as an appetizer or side dish. Serve it with a charcuterie board al fresco for the perfect summer meal.

Favorite Summer Cherry Tomato Pasta: Orecchiette Pugliese

Living in San Diego where the year-round temperatures hover between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, I’ve become a bit of a “Goldilocks.” I don’t like to be too hot or too cold. So, in order to keep the house cool in summer, my number one cooking rule is not to use the oven. The stove will not heat up the house nearly as much, and, of course, a quick and easy recipe also helps keep things cool.

Orecchiette Pugliese

It seems fitting that this simple summer pasta dish comes from one of the hottest regions in Italy — Puglia. In Italy, each area has a specific pasta shape that you will find throughout the region. In Puglia, it is orecchiette, which means “little ears.” The ear shape perfectly holds the three main ingredients of Orecchiette Pugliese: crumbled sausages, spinach, and cherry tomatoes. 

Loaded with veggies, this Pugliese pasta makes an unexpectedly light summer dinner. Adding to the lightness of this dish is the sauce that naturally forms from the juice of the cherry tomatoes and olive oil. The sauce basically makes itself, so there’s no saucepot to clean — another reason I love this dish! Best of all, my family loves it too. It’s the summer dish they request the most!

Favorite Summer Cherry Tomato Salsa: Italian Checca

Think of Checca as Italian salsa. The classic Italian Checca can be made in minutes by chopping tomatoes, garlic, and basil, and adding a little extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. With such a simple recipe, it is imperative to use the freshest most flavorful tomatoes, and cherry tomatoes will fit the bill.

Pasta alla Checca with Cheese - Cherry Tomatoes - Photo by jeffreyw, Provided by Wikimedia

Just as versatile as salsa, Checca can be enjoyed in many ways. Give your grilled chicken or fish a flavor boost with Checca. Toss it with pasta, rice, or any grain for a refreshing side dish. Spread it on bread for a delightful appetizer. This Italian cherry tomato salsa will make almost any dish look and taste better!

Favorite Summer Cherry Tomato Sauce: Marinara Sauce

Contrary to popular belief, Marinara from scratch is a quick sauce for an easy summer dinner. If you have a garden full of cherry tomatoes, homemade Marinara should be on your list!

A marinara sauce made with cherry tomatoes

Because of their naturally high sugar content, cherry tomatoes are one of the best tomatoes to use for Marinara. You probably have the rest of the necessary ingredients (garlic, olive oil, basil, oregano, and onion) in your refrigerator or pantry. 

Additionally, this sauce freezes really well. Make a big batch and freeze the leftovers. You will not be sorry!

Favorite Summer Cherry Tomato Accompaniment: Blistered Tomatoes

Blistered cherry tomatoes go with almost any meal! Just heat a frying pan on high with a little olive oil, add the cherry tomatoes either whole or halved, and char lightly. In just a few minutes, you’ll have an accompaniment to perk up most any meal.

Blistered cherry tomatoes

If you’re grilling, put some cherry tomatoes on a skewer and rub them with olive oil. Watch them closely because they’ll cook quickly.

Top grilled chicken, steak, or fish with blistered tomatoes, add them to a charcuterie board or cheese platter, jazz up broccoli, green beans, or rice. Get creative! You cannot go wrong here.

Favorite Summer Cherry Tomato Appetizer: Caprese Skewers

In a pinch for a no-cook summer appetizer? Try this simple solution! Stick cherry tomatoes and mozzarella on a toothpick or small skewer, drizzle with balsamic reduction or glaze, and garnish with chopped basil.

Caprese skewers

Final Thoughts

Summertime is tomato time! No matter where you live, tomatoes taste best in summer when ripened on the vine. It’s when the best tomatoes of the year are available. 

At the peak of the season, you’ll find hundreds of tomato varieties offered. Try the many different varieties of cherry tomatoes. High in sweetness, they make a great choice for both raw and cooked tomato recipes. 

I hope some of my favorite summer cherry tomato recipes will brighten your table and become some of your staple recipes, too. 

Interested in more inspiration for your dinner table? Check out this food-inspired guide to Calabria.

Cooking Italian Cuisine While Living in Thailand

Diego Ambrosio
Diego Ambrosio

Thirty-something Diego Ambrosio was born in Catanzaro, Italy, located in the southern part of the country. He is passionate about wild nature, cooking (especially Italian cuisine), singing, and playing different musical instruments like guitar, piano, and bass. Diego considers himself an extrovert and talkative person, but he also likes to listen to people.

While now living in Phuket, Thailand with his father and partner, Diego cooks on a regular basis. He enjoys mixing the local fresh ingredients and produce with his Italian recipes. In addition, he learned to create new fusion recipes that he enjoys just as much as his native dishes. Read on to find out more about his favorite southern Italian cuisine and his homemade Thai-Italian fusion.

What is your favorite Italian cuisine?

This is probably one of the hardest questions you can ask an Italian since they would immediately begin thinking of multiple answers. Why? Because there are so many favorite Italian dishes! If I really had to choose a dish by type, I think my first answer would be tortellini with cream, peas, and ham. The second would have to be parmigiana di melanzane with fried potatoes and peppers on the side. Finally, for dessert, tiramisu… all, obviously, homemade.

What is your Italian hometown’s signature dish?

‘NdujaAs in most countries, Italy has a rich list of excellent regional products. Many of these are even exported abroad, as they are delicious and appreciated by various European and non-European countries. Without a doubt, the best product from my region, Calabria, is ‘nduja. ‘Nduja is a particularly spicy, spreadable pork sausage typically made with pig parts such as the shoulder and belly. Producers combine the pork with tripe, roasted peppers, and a mixture of spices. ‘Nduja originates from the small southern Calabrese town of Spilinga. Italians mainly serve it with slices of bread or with ripe cheese. My hometown, Catanzaro, also has its signature dish. It’s called Morzeddhu alla Catanzarisi. This is prepared with tripe and beef offal, tomato paste, chilli pepper, salt, a bay leaf, and oregano.

Traditional Morzeddhu

Morzeddhu, a Calabrian staple

Morzeddhu must be eaten while hot, perhaps with a further splash of spicy sauce. It also must be eaten in the pitta, a typical Catanzaro bread shaped like a flattened donut and with little or no crumb inside.

According to legend, Morzello, or Morzeddhu in the local dialect, was born from that mother of invention, necessity. An impoverished widow was forced to accept odd jobs to support her hungry children. On Christmas Eve, her boss asked her to clean a slaughterhouse and dispose of the waste in the nearby river, Fiumarella.

Worried about what she would serve her hungry children for Christmas dinner, she saved the meat, cleaned it, and prepared a meat soup. And thus, Morzello was born.

What is the most famous Thai dish in Phuket, Thailand?

Without a doubt, Pad Thai is one of the country’s most iconic dishes and is easy to find all over Phuket. There are two main types of Pad Thai, Pad Thai Gai and Pad Thai Goong. Gai includes chicken and Goong, shrimp. Pad Thai is a stir-fried dish typically made with rice noodles, chicken or shrimp, tofu, scrambled egg, bean sprouts, and other vegetables. The ingredients are sautéed together in a wok, which creates rapid heat distribution. Once finished, chefs serve Pad Thai with peanuts, sugar, chili peppers, and a lime wedge on the side.

And just for the record… Pad Thai is my second favorite Thai dish. I prefer Pad See Ew which is similar but has a sweeter sauce.

Pad See Ew Goong

What types of Italian cuisine do you cook in Thailand?

When I arrived in Phuket, I thought it would have been impossible to reproduce typical Italian recipes at home for various reasons. The first challenge was surmounting the impossibility of finding all the authentic Italian ingredients. Next, we had to overcome the lack of an oven in the house. Ovens are critical for cooking different Italian dishes such as the famous Lasagne al Forno or pizza. Over time, we have fortunately managed to get almost everything we need to taste a bit of home. In fact, after a whole first year of researching, we managed to find a house that had a professional oven inside.

Homemade bread, a frequent Italian cuisine at Diego's house

Now, we can cook any type of Italian dish. In fact, we have become so accustomed to making Italian food at home that we’ve eaten out very few times. Both my father and I are able to prepare any type of Italian recipe — first courses, main courses, side dishes, and delicious desserts — that enrich our daily meals all the time. Finally, we also make our own homemade bread.

Where do you source Italian ingredients from?

Fortunately, it is not difficult to find Italian products in Thailand. There are various shopping centers and supermarkets like Makro and Villa Market, offering imported products. However, you have to be very careful when selecting your products. Everyone can easily find products of apparent Italian origin, but some of these  are actually not from Italy at all.

For example, an Italian knows very well that if he has to buy pasta, he can trust brands such as De Cecco, La Molisana, and Agnesi. All of these brands are available in Thailand, so we can avoid other little-known brands of dubious origin. The same goes for Italian mozzarella. Clearly the prices for authentic Italian products are higher than in Italy. For example, Italian fresh and aged cold cuts and cheeses cost at least 40% more. However, for some products (such as pasta), I can find similar prices to Italy.

If you were to pick a favorite Italian cuisine to make for us that you make on a regular basis, what would it be?

I practice making real Italian pizza for my loved ones frequently. Every two weeks, typically on a Saturday evening, we will get together and eat Italian pizza. My father is a great teacher, but I will obviously be his heir sooner or later and am determined to perfect it.

The preparation process has almost centennial origins, handed down from generation to generation. It has been perfected even more over time by generations of Italians.

The "Mother Yeast" Diego uses for Italian Cuisine
The Mother Yeast

The extraordinary thing is that my father created the so-called “mother yeast.” It is a natural yeast capable of regenerating itself eternally. It certainly has significantly improved the quality of the pizza. Additionally, you can vary the outcome by using different types of flour. Each flour has a specific protein intake capable of creating a unique gluten shield of its kind.

Spread the dough in round and rectangular trays. Follow that with a long process of rest, maturation, and fermentation for about three days in the fridge. At the end of this period, the pizzas are removed from the fridge, covered with a cloth, and left to rise for several hours. Finally, we move on to stuffing and baking. The oven must be at a maximum temperature of around 250 or 300 degrees Celsius. First, bake the pizzas on the bottom rack without ingredients in order to cook the bottom of the pizza. Then, add the ingredients. Put the pizza back into the oven. This time, put it on the top shelf to finish cooking.

Do you have to substitute the ingredients for the dish you are making with Thai ones? If so, what are the differences in ingredients that you see in Thailand vs Italy?

We managed to obtain all the Italian products we needed to make the pizza without having to resort to any Thai substitute. However, we have added a dose of creativity by trying to prepare some pizzas with typically Thai ingredients. For example, we made Tom Yam Goong Pizza. It is an Italian-made pizza with Thai seafood and Thai chili peppers.

While we were able to find all of the ingredients necessary to make the pizza, I can say that the Thai culinary culture is very rich in strong and contrasting flavors. Many of these flavors would seem absurd to mix together if cooking traditional Italian cuisines. This is because Thai food is actually based on a balance between different flavors, including spicy, sour, sweet, salty, and bitter.  Sometimes, chefs combine these flavors together. For example, the famous Thai dish Som Tam is both intensely savory and insanely sour — in short, the flavors of southeast Asia mixed on a plate. Every Som Tam dish normally contains garlic, chili, fish sauce, lime juice, and dried shrimp. All these flavors fit with the direction that Som Tam should “taste sweet, sour, hot, and salty.”

Do you get creative and make Thai-Italian dishes with both themes or cultures in the dishes?

My culinary passions obviously led me to the preparation of typical Thai dishes. My Thai girlfriend likes to say that one of the Thai dishes that I like to prepare, the famous Khao Pad Goong, “comes out better than the original.”

After studying and reproducing the original version of the dish, I dedicated myself to experimenting and mixing the two cultures. I managed to propose a unique and delicious Italian-Thai version of Khao Pad Goong.

I added some anchovies, dried tomatoes, sweet pepper, celery, and Italian parsley to the traditional recipe. Furthermore, I also replaced the classic rice oil with extra virgin olive oil instead. The result tastes fabulous and the multitude of flavors generated in the mouth tastes literally sublime.

What is your favorite Thai ingredient to mix with Italian food?

I think that soy sauce is a very interesting ingredient I discovered in Thailand. Chefs in Italy rarely use soy sauce in Italian cuisines. This type of sauce goes fabulously with fish dishes such as salmon. It also tastes wonderful when added to typical Italian salads with a Romaine lettuce base.

Diego is an extrovert and very sociable person but enjoys eating Italian cuisine while living in Thailand. He prefers making pizza for his family and friends. However, when he is not baking homemade pies, he recommends trying these three pizzerias in this order:

1) Pizzeria Da Moreno in Patong (probably the best ever, since it follows the authentic Neapolitan recipe)

2) Pizzeria Agli Amici in Chalong.

3) Trattoria Pizzeria Cosa Nostra in Chalong.

In his next article, Diego will share more about Italian cuisine. Be sure to stop by and check it out. To discover what other recipes Dreams Abroad members are learning about, read about Edgar’s experience making traditional paella!