2001 was the year of the “cherry tomato.” When I look through my folder of pasta recipes, I laugh at all the different recipes using cherry tomatoes that my friends and I shared during this period. We were crazy for these red, juicy, flavorful little tomatoes. Over the years, we have seen yellow ones, orange ones, and even some purple colored heirloom types appear at farmers’ markets and supermarkets. I love using these tomatoes whenever I can. When I first came upon this recipe in 2001, I thought that perhaps I could substitute this sauce for a Sunday “red sauce” for my family. It’s a bit richer and thicker than the other cherry tomato sauce I have posted. But while everyone thought it was delicious, it just didn’t cut it for my Italian family, who only wanted a heavy red sauce (“ragu”) on Sundays. Really people, not even in the summer?? I did try this several times when we were gathered at the Jersey Shore ( notice I didn’t say “down the shore”), but still it was a “no go” for Sundays. Thank goodness times change, and so do people. Now even my 92 year old dad enjoys this roasted tomato sauce on Sundays. I just made it for him this past Sunday, and after his second bowl, he said, “why don’t we have this more often?” And, as you will see from the pictures, I didn’t use only red tomatoes! The beauty of this dish, aside from the colorful presentation, is that it can all be made in under thirty minutes. Once you put the tomatoes in the oven, you just boil the pasta water, cook the pasta al dente, and then it all comes together at one time. I promise you that this dish will become a mainstay for your family, yet elegant enough for company. I’ve “wowed” many with this dish, especially unexpected company. I usually have cherry tomatoes in the refrigerator, and of course, the other ingredients are staples for any Italian home cook. I hope Sunday’s leftovers are still in the fridge. It’s yummy cool as a pasta salad as well.
2 pounds small cherry tomatoes, of any color, halved
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 3 TBSP for tossing
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
1/2 cups bread crumbs (I use Italian flavored bread crumbs)
1 pound penne
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line bottom of casserole dish with cherry tomatoes in a single layer, halved side up. ( I crowd them all together and don’t pay too much attention to what side is up). 2. Pour oil on top. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle cheese and bread crumbs on top. 3. Bake until tomatoes have wilted, about 20 to 25 minutes. 4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Season with enough se salt so that the water tastes mildly salty. 5. When tomatoes are just about done, add penne to water and cook until al dente. Scoop out about a cup of pasta water and reserve. 6. Drain pasta and add to casserole. Place over medium heat and fold tomatoes and pasta together, adding another 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil, to coat. Taste and adjust seasonings. If it is too dry, add a little reserved pasta water. 7. Serve, passing more grated cheese at the table.