Penne with fresh tomatoes and basil

June 25, 2008

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Serves 2

Until our local tomatoes come into season next month, use New England hot house tomatoes. Smashing garlic gently infuses a dish with their flavor, more subtly than chopped cloves do. With the side of a chef's knife, press down firmly to splinter the whole cloves.

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and more for the pasta water
3 cloves garlic, smashed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 pound plum tomatoes (about 5), cored and cut in 1-inch dice
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 fresh basil leaves, torn into large pieces
1/2 pound dried penne
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan
1. Bring a medium pot of generously salted water to a boil.

2. Meanwhile in a large skillet over medium heat, cook the garlic and oil, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes or until the garlic starts to brown lightly. Add the red pepper and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.

3. Add the tomatoes, salt and black pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until the tomatoes cook down into a sauce. Stir in the basil and remove from the heat.

4. When the water comes to a boil add the penne and cook, stirring occasionally, for 11 minutes or until it's tender but still has some bite. Drain it into a colander and tip the pasta into the tomato mixture. Add half the Pecorino or Parmesan.

5. Raise the heat under the pan to medium-high and cook the pasta, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes so it absorbs some of the sauce. With tongs, remove the garlic cloves from the sauce, taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper, if you like, and serve sprinkled with the remaining cheese. Tony Rosenfeld