I love pasta. It’s a food that makes everyone happy and shouldn’t scare anyone off (by that, I mean it won’t make you fat), so long as you eat it as the Italians do, as a complete dish rather than a side.
- 1¾ pounds cherry tomatoes
- 12 sundried tomato pieces (optional)
- 10 garlic cloves
- 2 bunches basil
- 4 quarts water
- ½ cup kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
- 2½ pounds penne
- 1½ cups extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
- 2 pinches Cayenne pepper (omit for children)
- 3 tablespoons white vinegar
- 3 tablespoons butter
- Freshly grated Parmesan (optional)
1. Wash, dry, and halve the cherry tomatoes. Thinly slice the sundried tomatoes (if using). Peel the garlic, remove the germs, and crush. Wash and dry the basil, reserve some leaves for garnish, and chop the rest finely.
2. Pour the water into a large pot, add the salt, and bring to a boil. Add the penne, stir, and cook according to the package instructions.
3. Meanwhile, heat two large skillets over high heat and pour just under half the olive oil into each, reserving a little for serving. Add a pinch of salt to each, followed by the sugar, coarse-ground pepper, Cayenne pepper (if using), garlic, cherry tomatoes, and sundried tomatoes (if using), dividing everything equally between the skillets. Cook for 1 minute, stirring regularly. The cherry tomatoes should be hot but still hold their shape. Add the vinegar and chopped basil and cook for an additional 30 seconds, still stirring. Remove from the heat.
4. Drain the pasta, leaving a little water clinging to it, and return it immediately to the pot. Over low heat, stir in the butter and the reserved olive oil, followed immediately by the tomatoes and any pan juices.
5. Taste for seasoning, add more salt, pepper, Cayenne pepper, basil, or olive oil as necessary, and serve at once. These penne are usually eaten without Parmesan. But if you really must. . .