Friday, November 15, 2013

What I Ate: Scarpetta's Tomato Basil Spaghetti

If you are curious about what I did with my fresh pasta, you are in luck because that is what I'm sharing today. Back in the summer, I went to Scarpetta for the first time (and I actually went there again just a few weeks ago). It was the best pasta I'd ever eaten, outside of Italy. Scott Conant became my pasta hero so I decided that the first thing I wanted to make with my first batch of fresh pasta was Scott Conant's tomato and basil spaghetti. I haven't actually tried it so I can't compare mine to his, but both times I was dining at Scarpetta, neighboring diners ordered it and it looked amazing. I'm sure his is better but mine was still pretty delicious.

I followed along with the recipe and steps from Serious Eats and the result was fantastic. This 'What I Ate' is quite a bit more detailed than I usually am, because the Serious Eats post didn't do a step-by-step photo diary. I didn't want to just call it a normal recipe post though because it's not my original recipe and I don't want to steal credit.
First, let's start with the sauce.

Ingredients:
10 ripe plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons + ¼ cup olive oil
pinch of salt
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
6 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 stems of basil with leaves
I started by cutting an 'X' in the bottom of each tomato. Then, I dropped them into a big pot of boiling water and left them in just long enough to help detach the skins (somewhere between 15 and 25 seconds). As soon as I saw the skins peeling back, I pulled them out and dropped them into a bowl of cold water. I didn't have any ice so to cool them off some more, I ran them under some running cold water for half a minute or so.
If you don't see any skins peeling back like this, you might want to drop the tomatoes back in the boiling water for a few seconds longer. The less-ripe tomatoes might need a bit more coaxing to get the skins off. The riper tomatoes were pretty quick to shed their skins, cough, sluts, cough. Kidding. I have a feeling my humor is really offensive to a lot of people. But guess what? This is my blog so I don't even care!
Once the tomatoes were cool enough to handle, I peeled the skin off, chopped them in half (long way or short way, it doesn't really matter but I did it the long way), and pulled the seeds out with my finger and gave the tomatoes a gentle squeeze to get rid of the excess juices. I set the juices aside as an insurance policy, in case I needed to thin out the sauce.
Next, I drizzled a good amount of olive oil into a pot (by good amount, I mean about 2 tablespoons). I turned the flame on medium and let the oil get nice and hot before adding the tomatoes. Once the tomatoes started to warm up, I added some crushed red pepper flakes and salt and then used a potato masher to start breaking them down a bit. Then, I let the sauce simmer for 30 minutes.
While the sauce was simmering, I combined the garlic and basil in a saucepan with 1/4 cup of olive oil and placed it over low heat. Heating the basil and garlic up over a low heat will pull out all of the wonderful flavors. I let the oil cook just until the garlic started to brown and the basil was completely wilted and crispy. Then, I set the flavored oil aside to cool for a few minutes.
I finished the sauce by giving it a few more mashes and stirs and added in some of the reserved tomato juices just to thin in out a bit. I strained the juices of course, to make sure all of the seeds didn't end up in the sauce. Then, I strained the oil into the sauce and gave it a final stir and 'poof!' it was done. Scott Conant said that he found it so profound that the last ingredient added to a dish is the first thing you taste (i.e. the flavored olive oil). I just tasted deliciousness.
Once the sauce was made, I was ready to assemble the actual dish. In addition to noodles, I needed the following ingredients (for 4 servings):
2 tablespoon butter
1 bunch of basil, chiffonaded
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
I started by putting the sauce in a skillet and started heating it over low heat and let the sauce reduce ever so slightly.
Meanwhile, I generously salted a big pot of boiling water and added in my fresh pasta. I let it cook for 3 or 4 minutes and then fished it out with a strainer.
Then, the pasta got dropped right into the skillet of sauce. I tossed the noodles to coat them in sauce and then turned off the heat. Then, I added in the butter, basil, and parmesan and tossed it some more. I also added in a little bit of the pasta cooking water just to thin it out a bit, as I didn't want the pasta to be gummy.
And then, I swirled a serving right into my brand new pasta bowls from Sur La Table. Apparently I'm obsessed with that store now, and rightly so. They've got so much good stuff for affordable prices. Anyway, these bowls are so beautiful, right? I feel like they make the pasta look so much yummier.
We ate the pasta with an arugula salad, garlic crostini, and a plate of meatballs (which is just barely pictured).
Delicious! The sauce was so delicate and lovely and not at all acidic like most fresh tomato sauces I've made in the past. I was so shocked, but I'm assuming it was a combination of good tomatoes, the short cooking time, and the aromatic flavored olive oil. The butter added a richness to an otherwise simple plate of pasta. And the addition of the fresh basil gave the pasta a lovely aroma and taste. I could go on, but I think what I should really say is, "Go make this."
Don't make any excuses about not having fresh pasta because this dish would be just as delicious made with dry pasta so buy some tomatoes on your way home and make some today.
Drool.
xoxo.

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