This pasta dish was poorly planned. It wasn’t really planned at all, and therein lay the problem. I thought some penne with roasted cherry tomatoes would be nice, so I started the tomatoes roasting (a little olive oil, a little kosher salt, 400 F for 15-20 minutes) and only then considered my other ingredient options. Shallots are a nice addition, but I love them best caramelized, so into a pan on the stove went the shallots, in a little splash of fruity olive oil over low heat. The dish called for something green, and we’re getting to the end of asparagus season, so best make the most of it. I could have steamed or sauteed, but instead I decided to roast the asparagus, too, which involved a second baking sheet (more olive oil, kosher salt, 425 F for 20 minutes or so). It finally occurred to me to start the water boiling for the whole wheat penne. By now the shallots and the roasted tomatoes were patiently waiting in the serving bowl for some company. I minced some garlic, which joined the bits of caramelized shallot stuck to the pan on the stove. I reserved a cup of the starchy cooking liquid from the pasta, which I added to the garlic in the pan along with the juice released by the tomatoes during roasting, and a generous splash of Marsala (of course). The al dente pasta then went back into this simmering mixture to soak up some additional flavor, augmented by rosemary and sage from the windowsill.
Finally, the pasta, the shallots, the tomatoes, the asparagus, and some freshly chopped basil and thyme all got together in the serving bowl, where a final sprinkling of good quality grated parmesan and freshly cracked black pepper made the party complete. A ridiculous, roundabout way to assemble a dish — but also delicious.