Sometimes you just crave a plate of spaghetti (well at least I do) and now that Christmas is over, the house is empty of guests, our studio is closed for the rest of the week (WHOOPEE! sorry, I digress . . .) AND Jaden over at Steamy Kitchen posted this recipe . . . well, I just had to make it. And boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!!!
I’ve made my fair share of spaghetti over the years including, dare I say this, using jarred sauces (shock and awe, I know, but true, nonetheless; my Italian ancestors are turning in the graves right now). I’ve also been to Rome, Italy and ate some pretty fantastic pasta dishes while there; in fact, I still obsess, dream about the food and it’s been more than 10 years since I made that trip. This recipe from Scarpetta’s in New York, is as close to perfection as you can get without the cost of airfare, a 9 hour flight and a full body scan at the airport.
There are 3 components to the dish but don’t be put off by that as everything comes together in about 40 minutes or so. The sauce takes about 30 minutes to prepare but in that time, you’ll make the garlic infused oil and boil the spaghetti – heck, if you’re lucky enough to have a helper (translate, the Professor), you can also toss a green salad and make some garlic bread without breaking a sweat. BTW – Jaden reports that Scarpetta’s charges $24 for a small portion of this stuff – can you imagine paying that much money for a plate of pasta??!!
Scarpetta’s Spaghetti w/Fresh Tomato Sauce and Garlic Basil Oil
adapted from Scott Conant and Scarpetta via Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen
Serves 4 (GENEROUSLY – I think you could serve 6 easily adding salad and garlic bread)
Scarpetta’s Chef only uses fresh plum tomatoes. But I find that most tomatoes at the market are just so-so year-round as they are grown and picked for shipping, translate: watery, tasteless and not good. But Jaden’s adaptation combines canned tomatoes with fresh tomatoes and it really works perfectly here. If you make this in the summer and have a bumper crop of fresh Plum or Roma tomatoes, feel free to use all fresh; if you’re out of fresh tomatoes and have canned, go for it (use a 28oz can rather than the smaller one noted in the recipe) or a combination as I did. This spaghetti is light; the sauce combined with the basil-garlic oil is so full of intense flavors, you don’t need to drown your pasta in sauce or a ton of cheese – MANGIA!
4 ripe organic tomatoes (preferably plum tomatoes)
One 12-ounce can of San Marzano or organic whole tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of crushed red chili pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ounce freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1/2 cup) and please don’t use the stuff in the green can
6 to 8 fresh basil leaves, well washed and dried, stacked and rolled into a cylinder and sliced thinly crosswise into a chiffonade
1 pound spaghetti, either high-quality dry or homemade
For the Basil-Garlic Oil:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6-8 whole cloves garlic
10 whole fresh basil leaves
Generous pinch crushed red chili pepper flakes
1. 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. Gently place the tomatoes into the pot and boil for about 15 seconds, then promptly move them to the waiting ice water. (Continue with the remaining tomatoes.) Pull off the skin with a paring knife. If the skin sticks, toss the tomato back into the hot water for a few more seconds. Cut the tomatoes in half and use your finger to remove the seeds.
2. In a wide pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat until quite hot. Add the fresh and canned 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 2-3 cups, ahead of time. Refrigerate it for up to two days or freeze it for longer storage.)
3. While the tomatoes are cooking, make the basil-garlic oil. Heat a small saucepan over low heat with 1/4 cup olive oil, garlic cloves, basil leaves and pepper flakes. Keep the heat on low to allow the ingredients to warm slowly and release their flavors. When the garlic is lightly browned, turn heat off and let cool for 10 minutes. The longer you let the oil sit, the more infused the oil. Strain the oil, discarding the solids.
4. To cook the spaghetti, bring a large pot of amply salted (TASTE IT – IT SHOULD TASTE LIKE THE SEA) water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti until just shy of al dente and drain, reserve a little of the pasta cooking water.
5. Add the cooked 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.) Remove the pan from the heat and toss the butter, basil and cheese with the pasta in the same manner (the pasta should take on an orange hue). Drizzle with just a bit of the basil-garlic oil on each plate (you might not use all of it).