Bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Salt pasta water liberally before adding in pasta.
Heads up: dried pici takes about 20 minutes to cook to al dente (5-10 if it’s fresh). Bucatini is hollow fat spaghetti and cooks in just 7-8 minutes to al dente.
Reserve half a mug or about a cup of starchy, salty water just before draining to toss sauce with pasta.
For the sauce, in a deep skillet or Dutch oven, heat olive oil, 4 turns of the pan, over medium heat. Add the cracked/crushed garlic. Do not finely chop it—just add to pan as-is. Partially cover pan and cook 5 minutes or so to soften. Add cherry tomatoes and salt, cover pan and cook to soften 10 minutes more. Add passata and let sauce simmer uncovered to reduce and finish cooking the tomatoes, 15-20 minutes more. Stir in basil, adjust salt and add pepper, if using.
Add pasta and starchy water to sauce. Toss to combine and remove from heat. Add some cheese and a drizzle or two of EVOO to taste; serve immediately.