If the allure of summertime cooking is its lack of effort, and winter’s is its opportunity to linger (and labor) in the warmth of the kitchen, this busy back-to-school period requires something in between. This roasted white bean and tomato pasta reflects the season: You might still be hoarding cherry tomatoes at the farmers’ market, but the cooling weather may just have you contemplating turning on the oven again.
Its ingredient list is quotidian (pasta, beans, cherry tomatoes, olive oil and some pantry staples), yet its execution is thrilling: Simply tossing the ingredients on a sheet pan and roasting them creates an easy sauce with shocking complexity and little effort. Cooking the cherry tomatoes in a wide, flat sheet at a high temperature pan helps concentrate their flavor and creates more caramelization than you’d achieve stirring the sauce as it bubbles away in the smaller surface area of a pot.
The recipe involves, essentially, three simple steps: Boiling the pasta, roasting ingredients on sheet pans, then tossing them all together. On one pan, cherry tomatoes mingle with minced shallots, tomato paste, garlic, red-pepper flakes and rosemary; on another, cooked small white beans — which lend body and bite — are slicked simply, with olive oil, salt and pepper. In time, the tomatoes slump, the beans crisp, and both sweet and bitter notes are coaxed by Maillard reaction, the chemical reaction that causes foods cooked at high temperatures to brown and deepen in flavor, all in the time it takes the pasta to cook.
Because deliciousness often hinges on attention to detail, you’ll collect some of the starchy pasta water to scrape up the caramelized bits, or sucs, on the bottom of your baking sheets. When they get released, you’ll notice the color of the liquid darken immediately, deepening as it picks up a subtle burnt sugar taste.
Finally, you’ll toss the sauce with the pasta, vigorously dispersing the tomatoes and coating the crisp beans and filling your noodles’ nooks. Though a flurry of freshly grated sharp cheese would be welcome on top, this otherwise-vegan dish doesn’t need it: The roasted tomato sauce is rich and luscious, fortified by the pasta water, roasted beans and a good glug of extra-virgin olive oil. You may be tempted to cut down on the precious pool of olive oil that this recipe requires, but do try to resist. Built with budget in mind, this simple pasta wouldn’t taste quite so lavish without it.