This summery pasta sauce is easy enough for a weeknight, but special enough to make for friends. It relies on a boatload of cherry tomatoes, which get quickly charred in a skillet, then spruced up with anchovies, garlic, and red pepper flakes (feel free to ditch the anchovies to make this vegetarian). The secret to it being creamy but not too creamy? Half-and-half, which is just what it sounds like: half cream, half milk. Just before you eat, top the pasta with plenty of fresh herbs: Basil is classic, but try mint, parsley, and oregano, too. —Emma Laperruque
Set a large pot of water on the stove over high heat to come to a boil. When it starts to simmer, season it with salt (I estimate 1 tablespoon kosher salt per 1 quart water).
While that’s heating up, make the sauce. Set a very large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and when it’s very hot, add the tomatoes. They should sizzle and hiss. Season them with salt and stir so all the tomatoes are coated in oil. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the tomatoes are starting to char in places, split at the skins, and release their juices.
Add the minced anchovies anchovies, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Stir. Cook for about 1 minute until the garlic is fragrant. Add the half-and-half, stir, and lower the heat to medium. Bring the liquid to a simmer and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until the sauce has reduced to the consistency of thick cream.
When your water is boiling, add the pasta, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente. If your sauce is waiting on the pasta, you can put it on the lowest heat possible just to keep it warm, or cut the heat altogether.
As soon as the pasta is ready, drain it, then add it to the sauce. If you cut the heat earlier, turn it back on to low and toss until the pasta is completely coated. Taste and adjust the salt and red pepper accordingly. Serve hot, with fresh herbs sprinkled on top.
Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.