Thanks to a friend, I had the opportunity to watch one of the ‘No Reservations’ episode – a cooking / food show hosted by Anthony Bourdain. Although my motivation for watching it was to see how this chef prepared steaks, something else I saw during the show caught my interest; it was Scott Conant making pasta and red sauce. As I watched the show through, I thought the process he went through to make the red sauce and cooking the pasta was pretty straight forward – even a novice like could possibly follow! And so I did:
Note: Researching after cooking yielded an adaptation of the actual recipe that Scott followed in the video. The steps below was what I did during cooking, and not exactly what was mentioned in the video (although I tried very hard to stick close to it…)
Note 2: Apparently the real recipe is described in the following link: Link to Scott Conant’s red sauce pasta recipe
- Follow the link and see how it tastes!
1. Blanche tomatoes so skins are easy to peel off. Peel, then squeeze juice and remove seeds if possible from tomato, save juice for later in case the simmer process takes too much water out (only happens if you had the pot on high heat like what I did the first time)
2. Heat 1~cup oil in a pot, medium – low heat, and place peeled tomatoes in once heated (careful with spillage). Mash tomatoes once all are in the pot.
3. Depending on how many tomatoes you have and how much juice you’ve squeezed out of the tomatoes, it may take anywhere from 45 minutes to a few hours for this to reduce. Stir occasionally to avoid burning at the bottom.
4. On the side, use a small pot to heat up the infusion oil – using 1-2 cups of olive oil, garlic cloves (say, 10), fresh basil, and chilli to taste. Maintain low heat at all times, and simmer for 10 minutes then turn the heat off as we don’t want to burn the ingredients.
5. When tomatoes have been reduced to a thickness that you think is ready, pour the infusion oil in with a strainer, and stir to completely mix the two.
Pasta Sauce with the infusion oil added
1. Cook pasta till it’s just about done.
2. Add sauce and heat on pan if not hot already
3. Cook the pasta with the sauce, folding / toss the sauce into the pasta.
4. Add some basil on top before serving.
Serving suggestion! Blurriness not included XD
Note that in the video, the chef added a small amount of butter which Emily thought was overpowering, as she preferred a strong tomato taste. This is personal preference, again, and adding butter may bring good results for you. (add in step 3)
Lessons to self:
- Do NOT heat oil with high heat prior to putting in tomatoes. Jumping oil is not fun unless you like dodging droplets of sputtering oil…
- If making sauce from a large batch of tomatoes, allow more than two hours (four feels more reasonable for more than 15 large or 20+ medium-small sized tomatoes)
- Don’t leave the infusion sauce cooking for longer than 20 minutes, as a lot of oil disappears and you don’t get that much extra flavor out of the ingredients.
- Use softneck garlic – garlic that has a lot of smaller cloves, versus the larger ones that provide fewer cloves. I personally feel they give more flavor in the infusion oil than the larger cloves… but it could just be this method isn’t suited for the larger clove of garlic.
- You really want to use ripe tomatoes as opposed to tomatoes that are all across the spectrum… I felt the flavor was stronger when I used a batch of tomatoes that were all really ripe.
- When using coarse grained sea salt… either grind them before applying to the dish, or add the slightest dash of it!
Experiments for next time (All done!):
- Use some canned tomatoes (This did not yield a significantly different flavor…)
- Ripe tomatoes only (This did not yield a significantly different flavor…)
- Really squeeze the juice out of each tomato (This has helped immensely in keeping down the reduction time, although the amount of tomatoes (20+) still mean a reduction time of 1.5 hours)
- Maintain medium-low heat all the way (low takes too long)
- Use less than a dozen tomatoes for brevity’s sake (the batch yielded was only enough for one portion of a two-person meal. Didn’t really justify the time taken!)
- Use more oil at the infusion oil process (This has contributed to the stickiness and absorption of flavor when cooking the pasta with the sauce, and thus allows a smaller amount of sauce to be used for the same amount of pasta)