Winter pasta

Long strands of bucatini, the pasta with a hole down the middle, are tossed with roasted tomatoes, radicchio and garlic. 

E. Jason Wambsgans, Chicago Tribune

Basic shares much with basement: It’s the bedrock, the beginning, the building block. The computer uttered its first words in BASIC. The classic dress comes in basic black. Garlic, chemically speaking, is basic.

Basic is being abased. Not for its link to debased or base, as in lowly. But simply for its simplicity. Among the young, basic has been sharpened into an insult slung at the banal. Catching on to a trend once it’s over, as this column does, is basic.

But basic isn’t bad. Consider spaghetti with red sauce: basic. By slow-roasting tomatoes and garlic in olive oil and emulsifying them into a clingy cloak for pasta, the cook can fashion a sumptuous — and simple — meal. One that’s basically bliss.

WINTER PASTA

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 30 to 35 minutes

Makes: 3 servings

1 pound fresh grape tomatoes

1 head radicchio, halved and sliced crosswise into 1-inch ribbons (delicious, though optional)

¼ cup chopped fresh herbs — any combo of thyme, basil, oregano and/or parsley

9 cloves garlic, sliced in half

½ cup olive oil

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1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ pound bucatini

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Roast: Tumble tomatoes, radicchio (if using), herbs and garlic into an oven-safe roasting pan that offers the veggies a snug fit in a single layer. About 9-by-13 inches is good if you’re using radicchio, 9-by-9, if not. Toss with oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Roast, stirring occasionally, at 425 degrees, until tomatoes are falling-apart soft and dappled with dark brown spots, 30 to 35 minutes.

2. Boil: Meanwhile boil pasta in salted water until tender but firm. Scoop out 1 cup cooking water. Drain pasta, and return it to its pot.

3. Emulsify: Scrape vegetables and all their juices onto the pasta. Pour in 1/2 cup cooking water. Toss over high heat until water and juices emulsify into a sauce that clings to the pasta, about 1 minute. (Drizzle in more water if need be.) Toss with plenty of cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

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