On a recent trip through the Italian countryside, we enjoyed numerous picnics on sunny terraces. And though summer hadn't arrived and slicing tomatoes weren't ripe yet, Romas were prominently present ― thick-walled and pear-shaped. Raw, these tomatoes are a little flat-flavored and border on mealy. But heat brings out their great character ― tangy, succulent, and intense. These are the tomatoes of sauces and pastes for pasta and pizza. They're also marvelous roasted with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, brown sugar, and ginger. (Using the Lucini balsamic and olive oil I discovered near Modena and Livorno, respectively ― also available in many supermarkets here ― takes me back to Italy.)
Romas take a fair amount of time to soften as they roast, but in the process, they soak up a prodigious amount of flavor from our pungent additions. Serve the roasted halves on crisp toast spread with a mild citrus-flavored cheese for a fine first course; double the portions and add pink curls of prosciutto or thin slices of aromatic salami to make a light lunch dish. A cool, uncomplicated, crisp Italian Pinot Grigio or Orvieto wine is all you need alongside.