Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil over high heat, then salt it generously. Add the penne and cook, stirring occasionally until al dente - tender but not mushy. Set a colander in the sink and drain the penne.
Transfer the penne to the sauce and toss. Add the Parmesan, season with pepper, and stir to combine. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with the basil leaves, and serve. Pass more Parmesan at the table.
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Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook stirring, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, their juice, and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook covered, for 10 minutes. Add the herbs and chopped fresh tomatoes, if using, and simmer for a few more minutes until fresh tomatoes are cooked through.
Remove and discard the herb sprigs. Stir in the salt and season with pepper, to taste. Use now, store covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.
Cook's note: For more texture add seeded chopped tomatoes at the end. Also add fresh chopped herbs for a fuller herb flavor.
Yield: about 3 1/2 cups