TV toque Scott Conant (Chopped, 24 Hour Restaurant Battle) has been hailed as the god of tomato sauce for the (deceptively) simple "spaghetti tomato & basil" he serves at his Scarpetta restaurants in New York, Miami Beach, Las Vegas, and Beverly Hills.
Pretty much everyone who's tasted it says it is to your typical spaghetti with tomato sauce what a Lamborghini Murcielago is to an old pair of flip-flops, which is pretty much to say it's the best goddamned tomato sauce on the planet.
Which got Charlie wondering... One, is any spaghetti with tomato sauce, no matter how spectacularly splendiferous, worth Scarpetta's $24 price tag? And, two, can a modestly talented home cook replicate this Italianate elixir in his own kitchen?
The first question you'll have to answer for yourself. As to the second
question, the answer is yes. And the result is a seriously delicious and
quite possibly planet-worthy tomato sauce. For a tutorial on how to
make Scott Conant's best tomato sauce in the world, go here.
For a few tips I picked up in the making, read on.
• If you can't get really ripe, flavorful tomatoes (which in South
Florida is pretty much a given) and you don't have any San Marzanos
to bulk up the flavor of our pathetic, tomato-like specimens, try the
Mario Batali trick of caramelizing a tablespoon or so of tomato paste in
olive oil before adding the fresh tomatoes. A pinch of sugar wouldn't
• Even if the sauce isn't too thick, strain the
tomato "likker" and seeds and add the result to the sauce. Our tomatoes
need all the help they can get.
• Add more than a pinch of
salt at the beginning to cook its flavor into the tomatoes, but the
chili flakes are better added to the finishing oil, which you'll strain
and drizzle into the tomato sauce just before serving.
extra basil-garlic-chili oil. It will keep in the fridge for a week and
is great for sautéing, using in marinades, or just brushing on toasted bread.
• Don't forget to add the pasta water. It really does help the sauce adhere to the pasta.
• If you want to add some protein to the dish, grilled scallops or shrimp or even calamari makes an excellent complement.
• Also don't forget to thank me for saving you $24.