This is a good all-purpose sauce for dressing whole-wheat and whole-grain pasta. Look for ripe tomatoes. Roasting them slowly at a moderately low temperature intensifies their flavor and brings out their natural sweetness.
The tomatoes can be made in advance and will last several weeks, covered with olive oil and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can easily make many variations for this sauce by adding anchovies and chopped black olives, diced pancetta or sauteed eggplant and zucchini.
Servings: 4 - 8
Yield: Makes 4 main-course servings or 8 side-dish servings
- For the tomatoes
- 24 (48 ounces) Roma tomatoes
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- For the pasta and sauce
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste
- Cayenne pepper
- 1/3 cup shredded basil leaves
- 1 pound whole-wheat spaghetti
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
For the tomatoes: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Slice the tomatoes in half lengthwise. On a rimmed baking sheet, arrange the tomatoes, cut side up. Drizzle the oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Roast the tomatoes, basting them two or three times with oil from the sheet, until they have partially collapsed but are still a little plump and juicy, about 3 hours. Let cool to room temperature and remove and discard skin, if desired.
For the pasta and sauce: When ready to serve, bring a pot of salted water to a boil on medium-high heat.
In a large skillet or saute pan on medium heat, heat the oil. Add the garlic and onion and cook, stirring, until the onion is shiny and softened, for 7 to 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the roasted tomatoes in a food processor and process briefly until they are coarsely chopped. Add the tomatoes to the onions and season with the salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the sauce is just beginning to simmer. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the package directions until al dente, taking care not to overcook it. Drain the pasta in a colander, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water, and return the pasta to the pot. Spoon about three-quarters of the sauce into the pasta and toss well to combine. Add a tablespoon or two of cooking water, if necessary, to loosen the sauce.
Divide the pasta among four shallow bowls and spoon a little of the remaining sauce over each portion. Sprinkle some Parmesan cheese over each serving and pass additional cheese at the table. Serve hot.
Adapted from freelance writer Domenica Marchetti, whose first cookbook, "The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy" (Chronicle Books, 2006), was published after this recipe appeared.
Tested by John Allen.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.