Penne with Burst Cherry Tomatoes, Asparagus and Thyme Oil
2lb cherry tomatoes
½ lb asparagus, peeled and
5 cloves garlic, sliced thinly sliced
10 sprigs fresh thyme
1 shallot, minced
1 ¼ cup olive oil
Black pepper, freshly cracked
Kosher salt, to taste
Maldon Salt, to finish
Notes before you begin:
For this recipe, we’ll be infusing some olive oil with thyme. This recipe makes more infused oil than is necessary so you can keep it around (it’ll last in the fridge for about three weeks) and use it on other food.
Let’s make the thyme-infused oil! Pour 1 cup of olive oil into a small saucepan over medium heat for four minutes (if you have a thermometer it should be about 150 degrees). You don’t want the oil to get too hot or it will start to smoke and become acrid. Remove from the heat, add in the sprigs of thyme, cover, and set aside.
Fill a pot with water, place on the stove, and salt aggressively (it should taste like seawater). Bring to a boil and cook pasta a minute less than the box tells you too. Then, start tasting every twenty seconds until the pasta is perfectly al dente (a little chewy). Once there, skim off a cup of golden, starchy pasta water, and strain the pasta. Toss it in a drizzle of olive oil so it doesn't stick together.
Place a pan on the stove over medium heat. Add in ⅛ cup olive oil and wait until it shimmers, then toss in the asparagus. Cook until soft and lightly browned (about four minutes). Remove from the pan and place in a paper towel lined bowl.
Add the remaining ⅛ cup olive oil, diced shallot, and sliced garlic to the pan. Cook until the garlic is fragrant (about a minute). don’t burn it! If you do it’ll become very bitter. Then, throw in the cherry tomatoes. Cook until they begin to burst (about five minutes) and crush ⅓ of them. You’ll want to leave the rest intact because they’ll become delicious flavor bombs in your sauce. Toss in the asparagus, taste for seasoning, and cook for another 10 minutes.
After the sauce is cooked, pour in a few splashes of pasta water, stir to combine, then add in the pasta. Turn the heat to low and cook the pasta in the sauce for one minute, ensuring every piece is coated. Turn off the heat and grate in about half a cup of fresh pecorino. Fold the cheese into the sauce until it is all melted (never cook the sauce while putting the cheese in. the residual heat will do the trick).
Garnish with more fresh grated pecorino, cracked black pepper, maldon salt, and a drizzle of the thyme oil. Enjoy!