Pasta with cherry tomatoes has become a regular dinner solution at our house this summer. It does require the use of the stove, but not too much. Some folks like to use raw tomatoes, but I prefer to cook the heebee jeebees out of them for all the extra flavor. You could also roast the tomatoes in the oven for a similar effect.
I learned how to make a variation of this dish while interning at a restaurant in the Italian countryside south of Rome. The chef made it with pancetta or salt-cured pork belly (pancia means belly in Italian). We do sometimes add pancetta or even guanciale (cured pork jowls or cheeks from central Italy). You could also add bacon but it’s plenty tasty without meat and we prefer it as a vegetarian pasta dish on lighter dinner nights.
Pasta with cherry tomatoes also loves basil if you have some lying around. You can tear some and cook it with the tomatoes or toss it in at the end.
The heat the tomatoes are cooked over is important, both high heat or long, lower heat will work. Heat is one of the reasons that restaurant food tastes so good, along with salt, acid, and of course, fat. You can cook the tomatoes just until they start to dissolve and the skins begin to fall apart or keep them roasting long and slow until they start to caramelize. Both are tasty.
Pasta with cherry tomatoes
For 2 people
- About 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Something salty: either a pinch of salt, 1 or 2 oil-cured anchovy fillets, or a splash of colatura (anchovy sauce)
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- 250 grams of dry pasta (1/2 a regular box), most pasta shapes will work. I often use spaghetti, linguini, or penne.
- Coarse salt
- Olive oil
- Optional: About 2 handfuls of Parmesan, grated
- Optional: Several basil leaves, torn – added with the tomatoes or at the end when tossing
- In a large pan or heavy-bottomed pot, cook the minced garlic and anchovy fillets with a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until the anchovy fillets dissolve. If using salt or colatura instead of anchovies, add those to taste along with the tomatoes in step 2 and cook the garlic in this first step until it starts to turn a little blonde.
- Add the tomatoes and cook on medium to high heat until the tomatoes start to fall apart and the tomatoes start to caramelize, toss regularly. Add a bit of water to scrape the tomatoes off the bottom of the pan if they start to stick. If you’ve started cooking the pasta, its best to use the pasta water as it is starchy and will help make a sauce.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta al dente in a large pot of salted water.
- Drain and add the pasta to the pan with the tomatoes and toss. Make sure to save some of the pasta water to fix the consistency of the sauce.
- Add the grated parmesan cheese if using, along with a splash of the pasta water.
- Toss over high heat for about 30 seconds, tossing frequently. Add a little more pasta water if needed.
- Plate and serve.