Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. That means five ingredients or fewer — not including water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (like oil and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Inspired by the column, the Big Little Recipes cookbook is available now.
If espresso martinis and fanny packs can make a comeback, why not sun-dried tomatoes? This wrinkly, tangy ingredient peaked in the '90s, then fell out of favor in the decades since. But it never left my pantry.
Tomatoes are chock-full of glutamates, the amino acid behind umami. Transforming them from juicy orbs to little nuggets concentrates that meaty, savory flavor, not unlike beef jerky without the beef.
Amid a shelf of convenient tomato products — whole peeled, diced, pureed, paste — sun-dried are the most convenient. The most accommodating when you've had a long day. They don't need to be sautéed or simmered or seasoned. They just need to be opened.
And in this recipe, chopped. Toss in a bowl, smash into cream cheese, and done. Like their names suggest, these two ingredients are all you need for an intensely creamy, cheesy tomato sauce.
It comes together in less time than it takes for water to reach a rolling boil. Which means you can spend the eight-ish minutes that the pasta is cooking pouring yourself a glass of wine and whipping up a crunchy topping.
Stream a slick of that sun-dried tomato oil — you didn't think we were going to forget about it, did you? — in a skillet. Once it's shimmering, add a spoonful of plump capers, which will puff and split, like popcorn. Sprinkled on top, these channel flaky salt, grated Parmesan, and crunchy bread crumbs all at the same time.
The hardest part is not eating them all before the pasta is ready. But lucky for us, the pasta will be ready in just a second.