Jun 2011

Scott Conant’s Spaghetti with Tomato and Basil

Scott Conant's Spaghetti with Tomato and Basil Sauce

After perusing my recent post about brunching at Scarpetta, my brother emailed me a recipe for Chef Scott Conant’s famous spaghetti. Unlike the fussy versions I’d previously seen across the Internet, this one was noticeably simpler and even called for fewer than ten ingredients.

Published in New York Magazine in 2003, this recipe is originally from the kitchen of L’Impero, where Chef Conant cooked before opening Scarpetta. Due to the straightforward nature of the ingredients and instructions, I was skeptical that it would be able to recreate the true majesty of the original dish. My brother assured me that he had prepared it himself and that the results were identical to the plate of noodles once dished up at L’Impero and now Scarpetta.

I remained a skeptic up until the moment when the sauce began to come together. As I crushed the fresh tomatoes, melding them with the scorching olive oil, the smells and flavors wafting in the air were wholly familiar. Once I added in the basil, butter, and Parmigiano-Reggiano, and saw how tightly the chunky sauce clung to the strands of spaghetti, I knew for certain that my brother had not led me astray.

“He’s getting a roundness of flavor and nuance of sweetness that amount to pure Mediterranean bliss,” waxed Frank Bruni about the spaghetti in his three-star review of Scarpetta in 2008. This recipe captures the bliss that Mr. Bruni spoke of, as well as a subtle richness and gentle tanginess. It’s definitely the real deal.

  • 1⁄2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 30 fresh plum tomatoes, peeled and seeded [See “How to Peel Tomatoes” tutorial]
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 1 1⁄2 pounds dried spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 24 basil leaves, cut into a fine chiffonade
  • 1⁄4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Scott Conant's Spaghetti with Tomato and Basil Sauce

Add the olive oil to a pan and heat until it begins to smoke lightly. Add the tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and the red-pepper flakes.

This step can get messy, especially when the tomatoes hit the oil, so use a lid to shield yourself and the stove top. Remove the lid once the tomatoes have settled into the heat.

Scott Conant's Spaghetti with Tomato and Basil Sauce

Crush the tomatoes with a potato masher, or a wire whisk, to release all their liquid. Cook for 25 minutes over medium to medium-high heat, until the tomatoes form a semi-chunky sauce.

Scott Conant's Spaghetti with Tomato and Basil Sauce

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the spaghetti. When the pasta has cooked for three-quarters of the time stated on the package, drain it and reserve the water. Add the spaghetti to the sauce and cook over medium-high heat until all the liquid is absorbed and the pasta is al dente, stirring occasionally. If the sauce becomes too thick, add a little of the pasta water to thin out the sauce.

Scott Conant's Spaghetti with Tomato and Basil Sauce

Remove from the heat and add the butter, basil, and cheese, mixing thoroughly until the pasta is an orange hue. Season to taste with salt.

Scott Conant's Spaghetti with Tomato and Basil Sauce

Serves 6.

Recipe by Scott Conant via New York Magazine. [For Printable Recipe Click Here]

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20 thoughts on “Scott Conant’s Spaghetti with Tomato and Basil

  1. He demoed this on TV once on Food Network’s America’s best spaghetti. I couldn’t believe how simple it was.

  2. Darin – I read your post a few times while researching this spaghetti. I would love to hear your thoughts on this version. I think it comes pretty darn close to the real deal.

    Anthony – It’s absolutely amazing how much flavor is extracted from such simple ingredients with this recipe.

    Nastassia – My pleasure! Come over anytime.

    Diana – ME. It was easy with the blanching method. Promise.

  3. You are my favorite person in the world right now. I have been thinking about this spaghetti non-stop ever since trying it at Scarpetta a few weeks ago.

  4. I’ve never had the spaghetti. I’ve actually never eaten Scott Conant’s food. I’m sure it’s (here comes that taboo food-writing word) delicious.

    But honestly, this is pretty much my grandmother’s recipe for tomato sauce, except for the butter—she used all olive oil. So now I’m wondering if, upon eventually going to Scarpetta and getting this $20+ plate of pasta, if I’m just going to go “but I can do this at home with Grandma’s recipe…”

    Thanks for de-mystifying, though. 🙂

  5. What makes this dish great is how simple it is. The only part that’s hard to recreate at home is finding the time to peel and seed the tomatoes without a sous chef to do it for you. Dave is right- anyone can recreate it at home- the only secret here is that the fresher the ingredients the better- it exposes the biggest bit of slight of hand in the restaurant industry- if you start with great ingredients, all you have to do is let them be great without letting any elaborate plans get in the way.

  6. Thanks for having me over for lunch Cathy! It was quite dericious 🙂

    I’m going to have to try the Scarpetta version and see how it compares. If it’s the same, then I’m going to try to make it at home!

  7. Surprised that there’s no garlic in this rendition… I’ll give it a go, but with garlic though.

  8. Thanks for posting, but noted it differed from him doing the recipes on camera for the No Reservations – Techniques show. This seems to be missing the garlic and and basil infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil he adds to the tomato sauce.

  9. Thanks for this tutorial! I was just wondering one thing…where’s the garlic? I thought Conant’s Scarpetta recipe called for garlic, but obviously I am wrong! Thank you for posting this though. I’m sure the recipe has changed over the years, and garlic is such an easy thing to add. All of the components are basically the same.

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