A cheesy and creamy 2-ingredient tomato sauce

Great little recipe has the smallest ingredient list possible and everything else big: flavor, creativity, wow factor. That means five ingredients or less — not including water, salt, black pepper, and some fats (like oil and butter), because we’re assuming you’ve covered them. Inspired by the column, the Big little recipes recipe book is available now.

If espresso martinis and fanny packs can make a comeback, why not sun-dried tomatoes? This wrinkled, tart ingredient peaked in the ’90s, then fell out of favor in the decades that followed. But it never left my pantry.

Tomatoes are packed with glutamate, the amino acid behind umami. Turning them from juicy orbs into little nuggets concentrates that meaty, savory flavor, much like beef jerky without the beef.

In the middle of a shelf of convenient tomato products – whole peeled, diced, pureed, paste – sun-dried are the most convenient. 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. Mix in a bowl, mash in the cream cheese and you’re done. As their names suggest, these two ingredients are all you need for an intensely creamy tomato cheese sauce.

It comes together in less time than it takes for the water to reach a rolling boil. Which means you can spend the eight minutes of cooking the pasta pouring yourself a glass of wine and whipping up a crispy topping.

Diffuse a slick of this sun-dried tomato oil – you didn’t think we’d forget about it, did you? – in a pan. Once it’s shimmering, add a dollop of plump capers, which will puff and crack, like popcorn. Sprinkled on top, they channel both flaky salt, grated Parmesan and crispy breadcrumbs.

The hardest part is not eating everything before the pasta is ready. But luckily for us, the pasta will be ready in a second.

Recipe: Pasta with sun-dried tomatoes and crispy capers