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[Photograph: Kerry Saretsky]

Pasta is always the perfect dinner for two. But it's a little too "always". It's what I make when I come home at 9 p.m. and am starving and don't even think of it as a coherent meal, just something hot that will fill me up. It's always in my kitchen, on standby.

So, I wanted to try something healthy and different and fresh and lively with pasta. Not a carb-fest, but a well considered, balanced meal I could feel proud of and excited about. I started with Arrabiata, the very spicy tomato sauce. One of my restaurant go-tos. But instead of getting it readymade in the jar, I tried making it in a whole new way.

Just toss the cherry tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, fresh red chilies, and, for something different, shaved fennel and fresh leaves of mint, onto a roasting tray and bake it in the oven. The tomatoes burst. The vegetables toast every so slightly around the edges, getting nutty. And, as with most oven cooking, it's effortless.

In the last few minutes, when the tomatoes are in the oven, boil some fresh whole wheat tagliatelle in well-salted water. It has a tender texture and the whole wheat really does make me feel more balanced after a carb-heavy meal. Tilt the contents of the roasting tray into the pasta pot, add the drained pasta, and voila! Crunchy, fresh fennel. Bursting, sweet-tart tomatoes. Those action-packed chilies. It's amazing. And if you want to add some heft, toss some roasted jumbo shrimp on top.

About the author: Kerry Saretsky is the creator of French Revolution Food, where she reinvents her family's classic French recipes in a fresh, chic, modern way.

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