Tomato season is in full swing. Finally. And this pasta “sauce” of baked Roma tomatoes is simply sensational. I’ve adapted this recipe from “We Called It Macaroni,” by Nancy Verde Barr; Knopf, 1992). The beauty of this Neapolitan dish is that it requires practically no attention once the tomatoes are in the pan. The peppery heat alludes to Mount Vesuvius, which overlooks the Bay of Naples. Since the volcanic activity has simmered down, feel free to adjust the spiciness accordingly. The long baking at a low temperature gives the tomatoes a special sweetness.
- Large Skillet (12-inch)
- Large pot to boil pasta
- 2 pounds Roma tomatoes, 10 to 12
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 large shallot, finely chopped
- 1/2 to 2 teaspoons dried red pepper flakes according to taste
- 1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
- 1/2 cup chopped basil leaves
- 1 pound spaghetti, bucatini, or linguine
- For the tomatoes, have a bowl of cold water near the stove, and bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add half the tomatoes to the boiling water and cook 20 to 30 seconds to loosen the skins.
- Remove the tomatoes with a slotted spoon or skimmer and plop them into the cold water. Repeat with the remaining tomatoes.
- When cool enough to handle, strip off the skins and remove the stems from the tomatoes with a sharp paring knife. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise, and do not remove the seeds or juice.
- Adjust an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 225 degrees.
- Put the olive oil into a 12-inch skillet and set the pan over medium low heat. Stir in the garlic, shallot, and red pepper flakes, and cook until the shallot is tender but not browned, about 5 minutes.
- Arrange the tomatoes cut side up in the pan, fitting them close together. Sprinkle with pinches of salt and sugar and cook 5 minutes.
- Turn the tomatoes over very carefully so as not to break them. Small heatproof rubber spatulas work well. Put the pan into the oven and cook, uncovered, for 2 ½ hours.
- Here are the baked tomatoes ready for the next step.
- Sprinkle the parsley and basil over the tomatoes and spoon pan juices over them. Return tomatoes to the oven and bake 30 minutes more. Reduce oven temp to the lowest setting while you cook the pasta.
- For the pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, and add the pasta. Cook according the package directions, stirring occasionally to keep the strands separate, until the pasta is al dente. Drain well, divide among four heated serving bowls, and spoon the tomatoes and juices on top. Serve at once.