I apologise to my regular readers, who have seen variants of this recipe throughout my cookbooks. It started as a cheap dinner for two but now it's become a staple part of our regular weeknight family meals. The idea is to roast sweet cherry tomatoes and garlic until their flavour intensifies and then press together with a fork in the roasting tray to create the perfect coating for freshly cooked pasta. In this version, we make our own pici, one of the easiest pastas to make which can be made in the time the sauce cooks.

Ingredients

Serves: 4-6
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 40-50 minutes

  • 600g cherry tomatoes
  • 1 whole garlic bulb, cloves separated and left unpeeled
  • Handful of thyme sprigs
  • Pinch of chilli flakes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 x 100g burrata balls, roughly torn
  • 50g Parmesan cheese (or vegetarian alternative), grated
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Basil leaves, to serve

For the pici:

  • 500g white bread flour
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 240ml lukewarm water

Method

  1. Make the pici. Mix the flour, oil and salt with enough lukewarm water to bring it together into a dough (you may not need all of it).
  2. Shape into a ball and knead for 5–10 minutes until smooth. Press into a disc, wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes (or overnight if you want to get ahead).
  3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°/180°C/400°F/Gas 6. Toss the tomatoes, garlic cloves, thyme sprigs, chilli flakes and olive oil in a roasting tray, season well and roast for 30–45 minutes until tender and broken down.
  4. Slip the garlic cloves out of their papery skins and remove and discard the thyme sprigs, then mash everything together with a fork.
  5. Meanwhile, press the dough into a flat rectangle and cut into pieces each about 15g each. Keep them under a damp tea towel while you work. With lightly oiled hands, roll each piece out into long noodles, about the thickness of a straw or biro.
  6. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the wiggly pici for 4–5 minutes. Drain and return to the pan, then toss with the tomato sauce over a low heat.
  7. Serve with the burrata, plenty of Parmesan, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, black pepper and some torn basil leaves.