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Penne with Cherry Tomatoes, Garlic, and Basil

For a wintertime fresh tomato sauce recipe with summertime flavor, we started with cherry tomatoes and then added more flavor by tossing them with a little sugar as well as salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, vinegar, and garlic slivers. We then roasted them in a single layer, which cooked off excess liquid and produced sweet and concentrated results in just 35 minutes. With our final touches of basil and cheese, we had produced a fresh tomato sauce recipe in late winter that we wouldn't mind eating during the summer. (less)

Grape tomatoes can be substituted, but because they also tend to be sweeter, you will want to reduce or even omit the sugar. Do likewise if your cherry tomatoes are very sweet, but this is less likely when using winter cherry tomatoes.


1 medium shallot , sliced thin
1/4 cup olive oil
3 pints cherry tomatoes (2 pounds), each tomato halved pole to pole
Table salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar , or to taste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 large cloves garlic , sliced thin
1 pound penne pasta
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)


1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. In small bowl, toss shallots with 1 teaspoon oil; set aside. In medium bowl, gently toss tomatoes with remaining oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper flakes, black pepper, sugar, vinegar, and garlic. Spread in even layer on rimmed baking sheet (about 17 by 12 inches), scatter shallots over tomatoes; roast until edges of shallots begin to brown and tomato skins are slightly shriveled (tomatoes should retain their shape), 35 to 40 minutes. (Do not stir tomatoes during roasting.) Remove tomatoes from oven and cool 5 to 10 minutes.

2. While tomatoes cook, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large stockpot. Just before removing tomatoes from oven, stir 1 tablespoon salt and pasta into boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain pasta and return to pot. Using rubber spatula, scrape tomato mixture into pot on top of pasta. Add basil and toss to combine. Serve immediately, sprinkling cheese over individual bowls.

JUST RIGHT: Tomatoes roasted to the perfect degree look slightly wrinkled but still hold juicy flesh within their skins

TOO MUCH: Overroasted tomatoes are too dry to create an ample sauce, and they turn into hard lumps that fail to mingle with the pasta.