Every month, chef Scott Conant’s restaurants sell nearly 10,000 orders of his spaghetti with tomato and basil. Conant attributes the dish’s massive popularity to its classic simplicity. “It always goes back to the same thing—the old da Vinci quote: ‘Simplicity is the ultimate luxury,’” he says. “Nowadays, no matter what else I put down in front of people, they always tell me that simple spaghetti was the best part of their meal. I definitely think it’s the sum of its parts: we use all fresh tomatoes whenever possible, we use very little canned, if any. We use quite a bit of olive oil, which we infuse with garlic and basil and crushed red pepper, almost like a tea. Then we strain out those ingredients and put the oil directly inside the tomatoes. We only cook the tomatoes for 45 minutes. The fresh pasta that we use has a little semolina inside so that texture is another very important component.” He finishes the pasta with butter, fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, basil, and more of the infused oil. “All of those are little things,” Conant says. “But when you put them all together in balance, that’s the key.”
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