spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce and basil

September 27th, 2009 · 45 Comments

and if you think that sounds ordinary, then boy are you wrong. you’re even so wrong that you’ve got no idea just how wrong you really are. because this is scott conant’s recipe from scarpetta – and it is beyond wonderful. this plate of food along with a glass of something very worthwhile – and i am telling you, there could be nothing better. different? perhaps. but better? impossible.

the entire dish consists of 9 ingredients. including the pasta, oil, salt and pepper… the other 5 are tomatoes, basil leaves, crushed red pepper, a bit of parmigiano – and a bit of butter. but it’s the way it’s done – the simple technique that makes it superior. of course, at the end of the day it’s all in the excellence of the ingredients along with impeccable execution. thank you and good night.

and then i did something that i never do. something i’ve steadily refused to do. but i went ahead and i did it. because scott said to – and i knew there was no way around it…

i know. CRAZY right? i skinned those fuckers. despite all past declarations i went there. and i must tell you that for this dish there is just no getting around it. boil the damn water that you’ll later use for the pasta, blanch your tomatoes and then plunge them into a waiting bowl of ice water. it’s not even a deal breaker. who knew?

scarpetta’s tomato and basil spaghetti
by scott conant via good morning america’


about 20 ripe plum tomatoes
about 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to finish the dish
a pinch of crushed red pepper
# Kosher salt
black pepper, freshly ground
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 ounce parmigiano, freshly grated (about 1/2 cup)
about 7 fresh basil leaves, well washed and dried, stacked and rolled into a cylinder and cut thinly crosswise into a chiffonade
1 pound spaghetti, either high-quality dry or homemade

to peel the tomatoes: bring a large pot of water to a boil. have a large bowl of ice water nearby. cut a small x on the bottom of each tomato. ease about five tomatoes in the pot and cook, let boil for about 15 seconds, and then promptly move them to the waiting ice water. (do this with the remaining tomatoes.) pull off the skin with the tip of a paring knife. if the skin sticks, try a vegetable peeler using a gentle sawing motion. cut the tomatoes in half and use your finger to flick out the seeds.

to cook the tomatoes: In a wide pan, heat the 1/3 cup of olive oil over medium-high heat until quite hot. add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and season lightly with the salt and pepper. (i always start with a light hand with the salt and pepper because as the tomatoes reduce, the salt will become concentrated.) Let the tomatoes cook for a few minutes to soften. then, using a potato masher, chop the tomatoes finely. cook the tomatoes for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tomatoes are tender and the sauce has thickened. (you can make the sauce, which yields about 3 cups, ahead of time. refrigerate it for up to 2 days or freeze it for longer storage.)

to serve: bring a large pot of amply salted water to a boil. cook the spaghetti until just shy of al dente. reserve a little of the pasta cooking water. add the pasta to the sauce and cook over medium-high heat, gently tossing the pasta and the sauce together with a couple of wooden spoons and a lot of exaggerated movement (you can even shake the pan) until the pasta is just tender and the sauce, if any oil had separated from it, now looks cohesive. (if the sauce seems too thick, add a little pasta cooking liquid to adjust it.) take the pan off of the heat and toss the butter, basil, and cheese with the pasta in the same manner (the pasta should take on an orange hue) and serve immediately.


do not adapt. do not adjust. can i ask you to just follow this one AS IS? the reason being that it is simply and truly exceptional. because i know you. YES YOU. so do not omit the pepper flakes or even think of adding garlic. just let it be, people. just let it be…

scott says that ‘the key is in the finish’ so just do what the man says and you will be loved by the masses. trust me on this one. when you can make something so incredibly simple taste SO MUCH BETTER than the next guy’s tomato sauce on pasta…

that right there is totally cool. i don’t care who you are…

as an afterthought, i thought i’d share with you the dorkiest of food blogger photos that i took with my own two hands.

and then i woke up and got a life.

i mean, is that precious or what?

 

Tags: pasta · tomatoes

45 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Mari // Sep 28, 2009 at 2:40 am

    I have to admit that I glean great pleasure in skinning toms, don’t ask me why, but I do. I actually just skinned a kilo yesterday for one of the soups I made, and it was good fun.

  • 2 laura // Sep 28, 2009 at 3:55 am

    ditto (in re the tomato skinning) … but, I forgot to mention, I, too, found month-old duck in my freezer and I, too, am SO grateful to you for the recipe.

  • 3 The Italian Dish // Sep 28, 2009 at 4:42 am

    When you have good ingredients, simple is always best.

  • 4 maggie (p&c) // Sep 28, 2009 at 6:16 am

    Oh I never skin them! I’m too darn lazy. But maybe it’s worth it for this dish. I just got his cookbook—polenta with PILES of cream, here I come.

  • 5 Michele // Sep 28, 2009 at 9:43 am

    This looks great! I love a fresh pasta sauce. I’m wondering why there aren’t any onions or garlic in it. Seems strange that he’d leave that out.

  • 6 cookiecrumb // Sep 28, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    OK, I love you. ‘Cuz this is it.

  • 7 claudia (cook eat FRET) // Sep 28, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    michele – if i may suggest that you makes this as is – seriously. you will be assuredly delighted in the amazingness of this plate of pasta…

    like my persto? no garlic. ever. it’s just not what i do. and it is THE BEST.

  • 8 mindy M // Sep 28, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    The simplicity is the beauty but the way it’s finished really is the key!

  • 9 kitchengeeking // Sep 28, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    Michelle at TNS is going to want to put an egg on that. You know it. I know it. She knows it.

    As I have just come into a kitchen that has all my stuff unpacked and in it ready to use, I may try this simple pasta goodness! Hell, I may even try to make my own pasta…though perversely that would add to the ingredient count!

  • 10 A. Carter and P. Chapple // Sep 29, 2009 at 7:57 am

    Simple and delicious – will definitely be giving this recipe a go :-)

  • 11 nancy at goodfoodmatters // Sep 29, 2009 at 9:31 am

    most times the idea of doing something–i.e. skinning tomatoes!! is worse than the actual doing.
    nice post–this one’s all about the tomato (garlic can be over-relied on) I like the bit of butter added…

  • 12 Joseph // Sep 30, 2009 at 7:37 am

    I’ll have to try that. I always just chopped them right up skin and all. Interesting and good post

  • 13 Rachel (S[d]OC) // Sep 30, 2009 at 9:47 am

    I love doing my pasta sauce like this. I just made a similar one after making a trip to the farmer’s market a couple of weeks ago. I still have some in the freezer for when I long for the sauce of summer.

    I want to go to Scarpetta! I never got over that time I was supposed to go with friends back in February and never got a reservation!

  • 14 Lesley // Sep 30, 2009 at 10:09 am

    No skins and no garlic…I…I…I just don’t know if I can do that!

    This reminds me, though. I need to get those pasta rollers out again.

  • 15 tommynoodles // Oct 1, 2009 at 9:11 am

    gotta skin em…unless you want unattractive tiny little red rolled cigars floating on your plate.

  • 16 Michelle @ Find Your Balance // Oct 1, 2009 at 10:08 am

    Hahaha yes I’m one to adjust every darn recipe I see but I believe you that this is best as is. But peel tomatoes?? ughhhh

  • 17 Robert // Oct 3, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    This really is nice for a change. Never liked the raw basil touch, but it works with this recipe. I am able to learn….

    Skins, Who knew?

    Grandma.

    But, havent wanted to keep bringing her up, wouldn’t want to wear out her welcome………

  • 18 Barbara Kiebel // Oct 13, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    Sounds great and I get the notion of ‘just leave it alone.’ I make a great, simple pasta of tomato, onion and butter and everyone advises to add basil, garlic, etc. I love those too, but sometimes the best of simple ingredients need to be left alone!

    Had to chuckle; also use to decry the notion of having to skin tomatoes…until I discovered the hot water trick. So simple, skin just slides off…who knew?

  • 19 claudia // Oct 17, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    because i am a blogging loser, i managed to just delete a bunch of your wonderful comments – i am going to try and repost them from old emails.

    i apologize and will be posting soon!

  • 20 Lynn D // Oct 17, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    Shuna at Eggbeater convinced me to peel tomatoes for just about everything (including a salad)! She thinks the skins are like pantyhose and she’s right.

  • 21 Ethel // Oct 17, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    I loved the photo for openers. Ok, I will first peel a tomato to test my skilll. I ate in the new A Voce in NYC and with the branzino they peeled tiny red and yellow grape tomato’s and had them all around the fish. Looked like scooped tiny watermelon balls. Beautiful and tasty.
    This pasta dish in it’s simplicity has to be a big winner even without garlic. Looks delicious too.

  • 22 Satisfied // Oct 17, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    We just made this dish tonight – great recipe! Really, really good. So simple, quick, and tasty. We made it with no additions and I’m glad we did! Thanks for the great post!

  • 23 Howard // Oct 17, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    Skin 35 or 40 lbs. to can and this is nothing. Looks great.

  • 24 Barbara Kiebel // Oct 17, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Sounds great and I get the notion of ‘just leave it alone.’ I make a great, simple pasta of tomato, onion and butter and everyone advises to add basil, garlic, etc. I love those too, but sometimes the best of simple ingredients need to be left alone!

  • 25 lo // Oct 17, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    The simplicity of this really does speak for itself.

    I was surprised the first time I saw an Italian chef use butter in his tomato sauce. But, then I tasted it — and wow, it was beyond words.

    Great ingredients really do speak for themselves. It would pain me to leave out the garlic, but for some reason I can see it here. Either that, or you made a pretty good case for yourself.

    Now — peeling tomatoes?? :)

  • 26 Yesica N. Cook // Oct 17, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    Looks fantaaaaaastic, I can’t eat garlic, and love peeling toms, so this is perfect! Thanks for posting.

  • 27 Angela // Oct 19, 2009 at 7:50 am

    I love, love, love a simple pasta dish. I have my file of quick and easy delicious meals for the nights when I’m just not up for it.

  • 28 Jen MArzolla // Oct 19, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Scott Contnant is best chef in city….to find a great wine to go with this great food check out http://pardonthatvine.com/….enjoy.

  • 29 Jen MArzolla // Oct 19, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    I love scarpetta , check out http://pardonthatvine.com/ to find a wine for this great food. very unique video website

  • 30 Laura @ Hungry and Frozen // Oct 23, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    Feel like I haven’t read anything on this blog for too, too long.

    This pasta looks beautiful, and talk about simple… I always forget how not-an-issue it is to skin tomatoes.

    I could deal with not adding garlic to the sauce but would have to struggle not to add more butter. I guess because my life is one long struggle not to add more butter to things…looking forward to your next post :)

  • 31 SpinachTiger // Oct 24, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    I’m a simpleaholic lately. But simple means focused. You can’t miss a beat and you didn’t.

  • 32 table kitchen // Oct 25, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    I really admire the people who uses true tomatoes for their pastas! I never liked spaghetti sauces in packs but I have no choice since I never had the patience to use true tomatoes!

  • 33 democommie // Oct 28, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    Claudia:

    I made a lovely fresh plum tomato sauce last month with some decidedly odd additions (black beans and garbanzos) and I was in a hurry so I didn’t skin the buggers. I was more than sorta upset with the look of the sauce. It still tasted great, but for want of three minutes or so it was not so pretty.

  • 34 FRESH LOCAL AND BEST // Nov 2, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    I’m impressed with all the effort you put into this dish! It looks fabulous!

  • 35 ntsc // Nov 3, 2009 at 10:24 am

    My wife made up a large batch of tomato sauce in the early fall, and I canned it for her.

    No it isn’t fresh, but it is good.

  • 36 Karine // Nov 3, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    These pasta seems to have a fresh flavor! Thanks for sharing :)

  • 37 we are never full // Nov 8, 2009 at 11:47 am

    where are ya girlfriend – miss you around these parts. get your blogging butt going again!

  • 38 Lamberto // Dec 19, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    I’m confused… you said not to change the recipe and then I witness the photo and BAM! You changed the recipe! That basil is not chiffonade cut! Okay… okay… I’m being picky… but since we are changing things… I made it again and instead of using butter, I added just a touch of cream (panna) at the end. Wow… it was a little bit more delicate and quite lovely. What can I say… it’s like the classic, “Dont look down”… you say that and that will be the first thing I’ll do…
    : )

    Love your blog….

  • 39 claudia // Dec 19, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    lamberto – no no… the basil on top was just a garnish. the chiffonade of basil is tossed into the sauce itself at the end! you can even see one little bit of it there in the pic!

  • 40 jason // Dec 29, 2009 at 7:48 am

    Yum! I love simple well executed recipes!

  • 41 Karen // Apr 25, 2010 at 2:10 am

    We just made this dish tonight – great recipe! Really, really good. So simple, quick, and tasty. We made it with no additions and I’m glad we did! Thanks for the great post!

  • 42 Anthony // Apr 25, 2010 at 8:36 am

    The simplicity of this really does speak for itself.

    I was surprised the first time I saw an Italian chef use butter in his tomato sauce. But, then I tasted it — and wow, it was beyond words.

    Great ingredients really do speak for themselves. It would pain me to leave out the garlic, but for some reason I can see it here. Either that, or you made a pretty good case for yourself.

    Now — peeling tomatoes?? :)

  • 43 Ian // Apr 26, 2010 at 6:22 am

    Claudia:

    I made a lovely fresh plum tomato sauce last month with some decidedly odd additions (black beans and garbanzos) and I was in a hurry so I didn’t skin the buggers. I was more than sorta upset with the look of the sauce. It still tasted great, but for want of three minutes or so it was not so pretty.

  • 44 cook eat FRET - buddha and bradley // Jul 27, 2010 at 9:36 am

    [...] dear readers, allow me to give you this repeat recipe from nearly a year ago. it’s just that [...]

  • 45 No skins and no garlic? What? | Lesley Eats // Jun 5, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    [...] sorry to spoil the drama of such a well-written post, but no skins and no garlic? I just don’t know. I have long known that leaving my skins on was bad form, but no garlic? [...]

Leave a Comment