Roasting the tomatoes gives the sauce a wonderful additional layer of flavor, and the pancetta lends even more depth
6 ounces thick-sliced pancetta, chopped
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for the pan
5 pounds ripe tomatoes (about 14 medium), peeled and seeded
6 small shallots
4 small cloves garlic
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano leaves
1/4 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper flakes
1/4 cup minced fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2. Cook the pancetta in the olive oil in a medium skillet over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until it begins to crisp, about 7 minutes. Remove the pan from heat.
3. Cut tomatoes in half. Brush a large roasting pan (at least 12 inches by 18 inches) with olive oil. Arrange tomatoes, cut side up, in a single layer in the pan. Tuck in the shallots, garlic cloves, and bay leaves. Sprinkle with the fresh herbs except the basil, hot red pepper flakes, and contents of pancetta skillet.
4. Bake for 2 hours, then stir vegetables around. Bake for 1 hour more. Let the mixture cool slightly, discard the bay leaves, and chop tomatoes and vegetables coarsely (discarding outer skins of shallots if they have toughened). Stir in fresh basil leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Roasting the tomatoes gives the sauce a wonderful additional layer of flavor, and the pancetta lends even more depth. You could make a vegetarian version by leaving the pancetta out; this yields a sweeter, more tomatoey taste. We like this sauce with long dried pasta, like spaghetti. Makes enough sauce for 2 pounds dried pasta