Sauces made from sugary sweet, vine-ripened cherry tomatoes are among the most appealing of all tomato sauces; cooking them briefly over high heat produces a light, chunky sauce. Dollops of creamy ricotta flavored with fresh herbs complete the light but satisfying dish.
Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Herbed Ricotta
1/3 cup (3 fl. oz./80 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
2 1/2 lb. (1.25 kg) grape or cherry tomatoes
Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup (8 oz./250 g) whole-milk ricotta cheese
3 Tbs. fresh basil leaves, cut crosswise into thin ribbons
1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt for cooking pasta
1 lb. (500 g) spaghetti
In a frying pan large enough to accommodate the pasta later, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté, pressing on the garlic with the back of a wooden spoon to release its juices. When the garlic turns rich gold but is not yet brown, 1-2 minutes, remove and discard it and immediately add the tomatoes and 1/2 tsp. sea salt. Raise the heat to high and cook, tossing, until the tomatoes are tender and beginning to burst open but have not fully collapsed, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with sea salt and pepper. Cover the pan to keep warm.
While the tomatoes are cooking, in a bowl, stir together the cheese, 2 1/2 Tbs. of the basil, and the parsley and set aside.
In a large pot, bring 5 qt (5 l) water to a rapid boil. Add 2 Tbs. kosher salt and the pasta, stir well, and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, according to package directions.
Drain the pasta, add to the sauce in the pan, sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 Tbs. basil, and toss until well combined. Transfer to warmed individual shallow bowls and top each portion with dollops of the herbed cheese. Serve right away. Serves 4.
For this and more than a hundred other fresh ideas for serving pasta, see Williams-Sonoma The Pasta Book, by Julia della Croce (Weldon Owen, 2010).