The secret to this divinely rich sauce? Cherry tomatoes cooked low and slow in the oven, which reduces the natural juices and intensifies flavor and sweetness. "By the time they're done roasting, you can practically eat them like candy," says Domenica Marchetti, author of the new book The Glorious Vegetables of Italy ($20; amazon.com). "The tomatoes are also amazing alongside grilled veal, lamb, or chicken."SERVES 4
1½ lb. cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil Fine sea salt Freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
3 fresh thyme sprigs
¾ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh basil
1 lb. dried gemelli
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1. Heat oven to 275°F.
2. Arrange tomatoes cut-side up on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with oil, ½ tsp salt, and a grinding of pepper.
3. Roast tomatoes for 1½ hours, until somewhat shriveled but still juicy.
4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
5. Heat butter in a large, deep sauté pan over medium-low heat. When butter melts, stir in the shallot. Cook, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, about 7 minutes.
6. Scrape in cooked tomatoes and juices. Add thyme and cream. Simmer over low to medium-low heat for 3 minutes. Turn off heat; stir in basil. Remove thyme sprigs.
7. Add pasta to the boiling water; cook until al dente. Drain pasta, reserving about 1 cup of pasta water.
8. Return pasta to the pot; spoon two thirds of the sauce over it. Add ½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano; toss gently. If necessary, add 1 tbsp of pasta water at a time to loosen the sauce. Toss again, adding salt if needed.
9. Spoon dressed pasta into a serving bowl. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top; serve with the remaining sauce.