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Everyone needs a go-to dish, whether it's creamy mac and cheese or a properly seared steak. For me, it's tomato sauce made with sweet, oven-roasted cherry tomatoes. It's never failed me, and it's a dish I've made in various configurations depending on what I have on hand.
There are a few constants, though. For starters, I always choose tomatoes that are sweet but not overly ripe. To its credit, this is a sauce you can make year-round since the oven—and in this case, a touch of maple syrup—concentrates their flavor. And about that maple syrup, don't worry: it's a secret weapon that both sweetens and caramelizes the tomatoes, and you won't even know it is there.
I like my tomato sauces both sweet and tangy, and here sherry vinegar does the trick. Looking at the amount of vinegar in the dish, it's tempting to cut back, but don't. At the onset it's potent, but when all the ingredients combine, it mellows out and everything works in balance, saturating strands of spaghetti with satisfying tang.
While I often used pancetta when I make this dish, salami stands in here. Sopressata, if you happen to have it on hand, is a great alternative. Naturally, onion and garlic are requisite add-ins, ones that blend into the background when you factor in chopped capers and kalamata olives. Again, you have some flexibility here. For example, green olives—such as Lucques—work beautifully. Then, a touch of white wine and a smashed anchovy help meld the ingredients, which you can expect to come out of the oven somewhat liquidy. It's okay—preferable, in fact—since the al dente spaghetti noodles will absorb some of that excess liquid (and flavor!)
I like to serve mine family-style, garnishing the top with wisps of lemon zest and salty, nutty Pecorino cheese. A microplane works best. Happen to have Parmesan instead? That will more than suffice.
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