Pasta and I are ‘one love.’ Seriously, if, for some crazy reason, pasta was banned from my life, things would no doubt get ugly. Pasta is satisfying, affordable, and is the base of totally delicious meals. There’s a little secret to making a beautiful plate of pasta that rises above the ordinary. Are you with me? No jar of sauce will do in this house, no no. I’m talking a sauce from scratch in just about 30 minutes. Yep. I’m serious! Sheet pan pasta sauce is a snap to make; just toss extra-virgin olive oil and fresh cherry tomatoes on a sheet pan. If you want to get really creative, add a handful of unpeeled garlic cloves, and even a few fresh carrots for brightness. The sweetness begins with the tomatoes and is bolstered by a squeeze of – wait for it – fresh orange. It lends AMAZING acidity to the final product. Roasting everything along with spicy red chili (both fresh and dried) creates an incredible fra diavolo sauce. The sweet roasted tomato and vege mixture are simply combined with some of the starchy pasta cooking water at the end, more garlic, and fresh basil to make an instant sauce. Get out your food processors, and behold!
Ingredients for A Sheet Pan Fra Diavolo Tomato Sauce
1 pound cherry tomatoes
4 medium carrots, peeled
juice of 1/2 orange (if the orange is small, add juice from entire fruit)
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 – 1 teaspoon crushed red chili (to taste)
1 fresh red chili pepper, halved lengthwise, optional (this brings the heat to this dish, so if you are a medium to no heat person, omit)
12 ounces of a good quality dried spaghetti
1/2 head of garlic, unpeeled, about 12 to 18 cloves
1 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves
Freshly grated Parmigiana cheese for serving
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Put half of the cherry tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil or parchment. Slice the remaining tomatoes in half and add to the baking sheet. Tuck the carrots in and among the tomatoes. Scatter the unpeeled garlic cloves.
Toss the tomatoes and carrots and garlic with the oil, crushed red pepper, fresh chili and 3/4 teaspoon salt.
Roast 20 – 25 minutes, until the tomatoes and the carrots are very soft, shriveled and juicy. The garlic cloves will easily pop out of what will now feel like paper shells. Be sure to discard the peels. Use the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher to lightly crush the tomatoes. For extra heat, chop the chili pepper and add back to the sauce, otherwise remove it. *** I like a fair amount of heat, but I have never added the roasted chili to my final product because it would be too hot for me – this is a “taste as you go” recipe and I definitely recommend doing just that after each step and each incorporation so you don’t over season your sauce.
While the tomatoes are roasting, bring 6 quarts of water to a boil with 2 tablespoons salt. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions, about 7 – 10 minutes.
Ladle out 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the pasta water and reserve. Drain the pasta and transfer to a serving bowl (cover to keep warm).
Pour 1/4 cup of the pasta water into a food processor. Transfer the carrots and little more than half of the garlic cloves and pulse until smooth. Scrape the tomatoes and all of the juice and oil and charred brown bits from the sheet pan into the food processor, reserving a few very blistered tomatoes and the remainder of the roasted garlic for presentation. Squeeze half a fresh orange into the mixture. Pulse once or twice to create a saucy, chunky consistency, stirring in additional water little by little as needed. Stir in the basil and the oregano.
Add about half the sauce to the pasta and toss to coat. To serve, portion the pasta into bowls. Add a few reserved blistered tomatoes, more sauce to taste, and sprinkle with grated Parmigiana.