The word pici comes from the Italian word "appicciate," which means “elongated by hand.” Pici looks like thick spaghetti, but is so much better! Our family was first introduced to pici by my Aunt Mary while traveling together in Tuscany. Buy it in bulk from specialty Italian markets, the pasta shop at the San Francisco Ferry Building, or online at William Sonoma and Amazon. —Lynda Marren
olive oil, divided
cherry tomatoes, cut in half OR 2 28-oz. cans whole San Marzano tomatoes, cut in half
Preheat oven to 400°. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil on 2 separate rimmed baking sheets, using about 4 tablespoons of olive oil total. Add cut tomatoes and gently toss in the oil with your hands. Arrange tomatoes cut side up without touching each other, and roast for 10 minutes.
Set pot of heavily salted water over high heat to boil.
Combine breadcrumbs, oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper
in a small bowl. Remove tomatoes from the oven and sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture on each tomato. Roast for another 25 minutes. Set aside.
Place a large deep sauté pan on stove over high heat. Add remaining olive oil and swirl to coat pan. Add onions and butter and lower heat to medium. Sauté onions until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes.
Add wine to onions and boil for 2 minutes to reduce. Add sun-dried tomatoes and tomato paste, and whisk together. Remove from heat and let rest on stove.
Cook pici in boiling water according to the package directions. (Dried imported pici takes much longer to cook than fettuccini or other long pastas, about 25 minutes.) Place measuring cup near boiling water and reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining pici.
Add 1/2 cup of the pasta water to the onions and stir to combine. Reserve the rest to add later if needed.
Transfer pici to onions and mix well. Gently transfer tomatoes and crumbs, preserving their shape but capturing some of the crusty browned drippings on the sheet pans for flavor. Add basil and toss gently. Add more pasta water if needed, or stir in softened butter for a smooth finish.
Plate 6 servings, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and drizzle 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar over each serving.