Ponza is an island off the west coast of Italy where my aunt Raffy and I first tasted this dish, in the home of a family friend. Like all the best pasta dishes, this one is simple; what makes it special is how the sauce comes together. The tomatoes and capers are roasted with a bread crumb topping,
concentrating their flavors and making them very juicy with a crunchy crust. When they’re mixed with the hot pasta and cheese, the textures and flavors explode in your mouth. This just might be my favorite recipe in the book!
Unsalted butter, for greasing
2 cups (12 ounces) red cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 cups (12 ounces) yellow cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1⁄4 cup capers, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1⁄2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
1⁄2 cup Italian-style seasoned dried bread crumbs
1 pound ziti or other short tube-shaped pasta
11⁄4 cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1⁄4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375oF. Butter an 8 x 8-inch glass baking dish. Set aside.
Combine the tomatoes, capers, olive oil, salt, and pepper in the prepared baking dish. Toss to coat. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the tomato mixture. Drizzle the top with olive oil and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is golden. Cool for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but still firm to the bite, 8 to 10 minutes.
Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water. Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl. Spoon the tomato mixture onto the pasta. Add the cheese and toss well. If needed, thin out the sauce with a little pasta water. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.