Seashells with basil, tomatoes, and garlic

July 8, 2012

Seashell pasta salad with basil, tomatoes, and garlic

This seashell pasta dish was a big hit at our 4th of July gathering and it's perfect for any outdoor cookout or picnic!  For outdoor get-togethers, I prefer to take side dishes that don't have to be kept warm or cold; just to make it easier. Since this one doesn't have any mayo, it's perfect served at room temperature.

Seashells with basil, tomatoes, and garlic
(adapted from Sunset Magazine, June 2012)

1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped or minced
3/4 t. sea salt
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1 pt. small cherry or teardrop tomatoes (I used sugar plums)
1 lb medium seashell pasta
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, shaved
1/2 c. thinly sliced fresh basil leaves

Combine oil, garlic, pepper flakes and salt and simmer on very low heat for 5 minutes or so; being careful not to burn the garlic.  Slice half of the tomatoes and stir the tomatoes into the mixture and simmer another 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and place in a large bowl. Place the other half of the sliced tomatoes into the mixture and stir. Let stand for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  (Raw tomatoes get juicy as they stand, which helps create the sauce.)

Meanwhile, cook pasta as package directs for al dente  in a large pot of salted water. When done, drain and toss pasta with tomato mixture, then with the cheese and all but 1 tbsp. basil. Sprinkle remaining basil on top and season with a little salt, to taste.

Voila! Super simple, healthy and delicious. I got so many compliments on this salad that I'll definitely be making it again. 🙂

Note: If you want to make this even easier, the original recipe from Sunset didn't call for simmering the garlic or tomatoes; they were just tossed all in a bowl to stand. Since I feel like some people don't enjoy raw garlic and I added the red pepper flakes to the recipe, I wanted to try simmering them all together before letting it stand and it worked out great.


BigSis' Vegan Twist:  This recipe would be a piece of cake to veganize. All you have to do is cut the parmesan and make sure that your pasta doesn't have any eggs in it (most doesn't). You could add a cubed vegan cheese, but what I would probably do instead is add some sliced kalamata olives. You'd get nice briny flavor from the ollies, plus great color contrast. I'm thinking that drained capers and snipped chives would also be really tasty.


If you liked this...

65 Comments so far

  1. Posted by Robbin

    July 11, 20121:42 pm

    This looks super simple and delicious! As a vegetarian, I will definitely try this as a main dish. I’ve pinned this on my “Lean Cuisine” board on Pinterst. (My Pinterest name is Leonardo da Poochie.). Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  2. Posted by LilSis

    July 13, 201210:46 am

    Robbin, thanks for the Pin. This recipe is simple and very delicious. You can modify it in so many ways to suit your own taste, if you choose. Let us know if you try it and how it turns out.

  3. Posted by Summer

    July 22, 20124:47 pm

    Just made this (minus the cheese),
    and it is delicious!! I will definitely be
    making this often!! Thanks!!

  4. Posted by LilSis

    July 24, 201212:27 pm

    Glad you enjoyed it, Summer! It’s definitely just as good without the cheese. It’s so easy, yet everyone loves it! Thanks for reading BigSisLilSis.

  5. Posted by Mommy05

    July 23, 20128:51 am

    How much basil? 1/2 Cup? Thanks for the receipe, looks great!

  6. Posted by LilSis

    July 24, 201212:30 pm

    Mommy05; thanks for catching the “boo boo” in the quantity of the basil. Yes, it’s 1/2 cup and I’ve updated the recipe. Let us know if you make it. Thanks for reading BigSisLilSis. 🙂

  7. Posted by Judimae

    July 24, 201212:42 pm

    Just found your blog via a Pinterest pin. This recipe rocks. It looks very easy, looks delicious, and I know it is gonna taste just as good as it looks. I am bookmarking your blog; and when I get back from surgery, will check out more of it. Thanks for the recipe!

  8. Posted by LilSis

    July 24, 20121:35 pm

    Thanks Judimae,
    It is super easy and everyone loves it! I love taking it to cookouts since it’s great served at room temperature. Thanks for reading BigSisLilSis. Good luck with your surgery!

  9. Posted by BigSis

    July 24, 20127:32 pm

    Thanks for bookmarking us, Judimae. We appreciate you reading us, and taking the time to leave a comment! All the best with your surgery; hope you’re back on your feet soon!

  10. Posted by Elizabeth

    July 26, 20128:34 pm

    This has become my husbands favorite meal! It is so yummy!! Thanks for posting it.

  11. Posted by Carrie

    July 28, 201211:33 pm

    Made this today for a picnic/concert. So yummy! Thx!

  12. Posted by LilSis

    August 3, 20125:02 pm

    Glad you liked it, Carrie!

  13. Posted by Bridget

    August 2, 20123:29 pm

    I added pitted, halved kalamata olives. Delicious

  14. Posted by LilSis

    August 3, 20125:01 pm

    Excellent addition, Bridget! I love kalamata olives and I bet they made this dish even better! Thanks!

  15. Posted by Arlene

    August 13, 20123:18 pm

    This looks delicious! I will be making this as a main dish tonight (except with whole wheat pasta due to diabetes). I know it will be an awesome, summertime meal! Thanks so much!

  16. Posted by LilSis

    August 14, 20128:44 pm

    Thanks, Arlene,
    Let us know how it turns out; I’m sure it’ll be great with the whole wheat pasta!

  17. Posted by Judy

    August 14, 20124:29 pm

    Was very good

  18. Posted by LilSis

    August 14, 20128:44 pm

    Thanks, Judy! It’s one of my new favorites.

  19. Posted by Rachel

    August 21, 20125:38 pm

    Seriously amazing! Just made this for my very picky kids and they ate it! I mean all of it! We used bowtie pasta instead but it really came out great. Very impressed!

  20. Posted by Belinda

    August 23, 20124:56 pm

    This dish was so simple. It is absolutely delicious!! Thank you so much!

  21. Posted by Janel

    August 31, 20128:11 am

    Will table salt be ok to use in place of the sea salt?

  22. Posted by Janel

    September 1, 20129:22 am

    I just made this and it turned out SO good! I used about 6 Mozzerella cheese sticks that I sliced into small circles instead. Exactly what I was looking for, I’m so tired of the traditional pasta salad with Italian dressing. Thanks for sharing!!

  23. Posted by LilSis

    September 3, 201211:58 am

    Thanks Janel! I’m glad it turned out so good; the mozzerella sticks sound yummy. Thanks for reading BigSisLilSis!

  24. Posted by Arizona

    September 25, 201212:05 pm

    It’s delicious and not that difficult. Thanks for sharing!

  25. Posted by Pookie1963

    October 7, 20122:01 pm

    Just made this and it is delicious! Next time will try it with kalamata olives and mozzarella cheese, bet that’s delicious too!

  26. Posted by BigSis

    October 7, 20123:13 pm

    Hi, Pookie1963! Thanks so much for your comment, we’re glad you enjoyed the recipe!

  27. Posted by Erin S.

    November 11, 20125:08 pm

    I had to tweek this a little to fit my family. First I didn’t have any garlic cloves on hand so I used some Tastefully Simple Seasoning called Garlic Garlic. I also added chicken. It was very good!

  28. Posted by Marsha

    November 20, 20125:57 pm

    Can this be made a day ahead without being soggy?

  29. Posted by BigSis

    November 21, 20122:36 pm

    Hi Marsha! I think this should be perfectly fine if you make it ahead, since it isn’t sitting in tons of juice that will get absorbed. I think the flavors will just get better if they have time to mingle for a little while. Let us know how it turns out! ~BigSis

  30. Posted by Carlotta

    January 6, 20137:22 pm

    Very very tasty pasta dish!! We all loved it and will make this dish again!!!!!!!

  31. Posted by LilSis

    January 8, 201311:51 am

    Thanks, Carlotta, we’re glad you enjoyed it; super simple and tasty!

  32. Posted by Emilie

    January 19, 20132:12 pm

    I’m only 15 and i was browsing through pinterest when i came across this picture! It looked really good i clicked on it and i came here! I literally just made this meal and it came out really good! Thank you so much

  33. Posted by BigSis

    January 19, 20134:00 pm

    Hi Emilie! Thanks for coming to visit us, and thanks for taking the time to leave us a comment. We’re really happy you liked the seashell pasta, and that you’re in the kitchen doing some fun cooking! 🙂

  34. Posted by Andrea and Laurel (BFF's)

    February 17, 20134:59 pm

    Hey we are both 11 years old and we made this pasta and it was delicious and we gave some to our parents and they loved it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for posting the recipe online. Me and my grandma are going to open a bakery this summer and you guys are so inspiring. There are not a lot of people like you out there. thx agian for posting the recipe!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    -Laurel and Andrea(BFF’S)

  35. Posted by Jess

    March 23, 20133:46 pm

    LOVE it! I did not have fresh tomatoes on hand so I had to use sun dried, but it was still yummy!

  36. Posted by Brittany

    March 25, 20136:16 pm

    Just made this tonight– and it was a huge hit with my kids!! I served it warm. 🙂

  37. Posted by jacklyn

    March 31, 20133:30 pm

    does anyone know the nutritiomal info of this recipe? its delicious!:)

  38. Posted by Melissa

    April 1, 20132:19 pm

    I just tried this recipe and the flavors are great! I added mushrooms to the oil mix as it was simmering and they were a great addition. I think I will add chopped asparagus next time as well. My fiance did comment that the dish was pretty oily, though, and I had to agree. I was wondering if anyone else has found this dish to be too oily (perhaps unhealthy in that regard?). I know olive oil is better than other oils but I still have my concerns. I was thinking of reducing the oil next time to a 1/3 cup instead of 1/2. Do you think it will still turn out alright? Also, have you ever tried adding an acid to it, like white wine vinegar? Thanks for the post and awesome pictures!

  39. Posted by LilSis

    April 2, 201310:50 am

    Melissa, I’m so glad you tried this recipe and enjoyed it. I think the addition of mushrooms sounds great and I’m definitely going to try adding some asparagus next time I make it. I actually haven’t had anyone else mention the oil, but you could definitely cut the oil to 1/3 cup and maybe even to 1/4 a cup. I’ve never added any vinegar, but I’m sure you could try that too! Thanks for the comment!

  40. Posted by Brenda

    April 10, 20133:22 pm

    I am planning on making this recipe for a BBQ I am going to. Do you know approximately how many people this can serve so I know whether to double the recipe or not??

  41. Posted by Jennifer

    May 6, 20134:28 am

    how long does this keep in the fridge? is it best served immediately? i like to make things i can take for lunch at work all week

  42. Posted by BigSis

    May 6, 20138:02 pm

    Hi Jennifer, this salad should be fine for a few days, no problem! Thanks for reading us!

  43. Posted by Judy kirinch

    May 8, 201311:04 pm

    This was so quick & easy, but most of all delish! I had given up on Italian dressing pasta salad, but this was so fresh! I do not like biting into garlic, so I peeled the cloves & then did the unspeakable…I smashed it…! After simmering it for the 5 minutes I then removed the pieces of garlic, the oil was flavored but no pieces to bite into 🙂

  44. Posted by Debbie

    May 11, 20135:34 pm

    This was really good! I fried up some pancetta and added it to the mixture. I know not very healthy but it added a little zip that my family loves! Thanks!!

  45. Posted by Katie

    May 29, 20138:34 pm

    WOW! So delicious!!! Hubby and I are adding this as a weekly must have!

  46. Posted by Elina

    June 14, 201310:08 pm

    Gosh, I’ve been making this pasta for years except I use Penne Pasta and fresh mozzarella cheese cut into small cubes. I too use red pepper flakes. Great summer dish!

  47. Posted by Katy

    June 27, 201310:55 pm

    Someone brought this to a potluck tonight and I was trying to track her down all night. Finally figured out who brought it and she directed me to your site. The salad was wonderful and am so excited to make it myself. Thanks!

  48. Posted by katy

    July 5, 201310:22 am

    LOVE THIS! Had it at a potluck and loved it so much, I tracked down the person who brought it. She directed me here and I made it yesterday for a barbeque. I added asparagus, just because I had some, which was nice but not necessary. This is hands down the best pasta salad I’ve ever had. Thanks so much for the recipe!

  49. Posted by Allison

    July 5, 20139:18 pm

    I made this a few times last summer, and am making it for the first time this summer for a bbq tomorrow. I can’t wait! It’s always a big hit with everybody! Thanks for this awesome recipe!

  50. Posted by vera

    July 7, 20138:04 am


  51. Posted by Ella

    July 13, 20135:04 am

    I just made this and it is spectacular. I changed nothing and made it exactly as you wrote. Amazing and yummy!!

  52. Posted by Christy

    July 15, 20135:08 pm

    Do you know how many people this recipe will serve? I’m hosting a baby shower for about 20 people.

  53. Posted by Abigail Clark

    August 6, 20134:11 pm

    What is “pt?” Ie: 1 pt. cherry tomato.

  54. Posted by BigSis

    August 25, 20137:52 pm

    Hi Abigail, thanks for your question. 1 pt refers to 1 pint.

  55. Posted by Tonya

    August 20, 20137:05 pm

    Yumm!! Even my icky 4 year od liked it.

  56. Posted by BigSis

    August 25, 20137:54 pm

    Thanks, Tonya!

  57. Posted by Debra Nolen

    May 29, 20148:30 am

    Made this last yr and it was like others said the best pasta salad ever!Camping trip this wkend and making for that!

  58. Posted by GLORIA SCHADT

    May 31, 20146:32 pm

    Is this dish served hot or cold.. ??? Not specified….

  59. Posted by kim

    June 12, 201410:44 pm

    made this tonight! we added a handful of chiffonade spinach/kale/chard blend in with the tomato and garlic mixture and it was great way to get a few more greens in! it was a teeeeensy bit bland, so next time i need to find a way to make more sauce or maybe just add more salt/red pepper flakes 🙂

  60. Posted by Patty

    June 17, 20144:46 pm

    There’s only one problem I find with this salad – trying HARD not to eat the WHOLE bowl!!! DELICIOUS!!!

    I think cooking the garlic, red pepper flakes and tomatoes
    in the olive oil is what makes this salad so delicious!!

  61. Posted by Karen

    June 18, 201412:52 am

    This sounds good, and I really like the idea of using mozzarella cheese sticks! I have never used red pepper flakes, but love red peppers, so I may just use the real thing. Also will adjust salt content due to my need to be on a low-sodium diet.

  62. Posted by Linda

    July 19, 20147:06 pm

    Made this salad for supper. It was delicious! I will try it again. I might add grilled chicken next time!
    Great recipe!

  63. Posted by Natalie

    September 3, 201410:51 pm

    I’ve seen the question asked several times but not an answer. Does anyone know how many this will serve? Thanks..

  64. Posted by Hope

    October 18, 20147:50 pm

    I added one small can of V8 juice to the tomatoes and it gave it great flavor…

  65. Posted by Shirley

    August 15, 20154:50 pm

    I made this and it is so good. It is good hot, cold and at room temp. Great recipe!Thanks!!!


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