When this recipe appeared in an October 2010 issue of the Toronto Star, I thought it was strange that it would be featured in the fall, after the end of tomato and basil season. So I tucked it away in my August 2011 calendar and made it last week. The recipe is based on U.S. chef Scott Conant’s famous spaghetti served in his restaurant, Scarpetta.

This is a delicious dish. Canned and fresh tomatoes are cooked down and then infused with a garlic- and basil-flavoured oil. Add cooked pasta and finish with pasta water, more basil, cheese, butter and oil. Luscious!

Basil-garlic oil is added to the tomato sauce

To peel the tomatoes, immerse in boiling water for 1 minute, then plunge into ice water

Simmer the sauce for 25 minutes before adding garlic-basil oil

Add cooked pasta and finish the sauce with basil, cheese and butter

You can vary the ratio of fresh and canned tomatoes, depending on the season. To avoid additives and preservatives in this recipe, use canned tomatoes that do not contain preservatives, and Parmesan and butter that do not contain colour.

Scarpetta's Spaghetti with Tomato and Basil


Basil-Garlic Oil

¼ cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

6 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed

8 basil leaves

Pinch red chili flakes

Tomato Sauce

8 plum (roma) tomatoes

2 cups (500 mL) canned San Marzano (plum) tomatoes with juices

2 tbsp (30 mL) extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt + freshly ground black pepper to taste


Kosher salt

12 oz (340 g) high-quality dried spaghetti

3 cups (570 mL) Tomato Sauce

16 large basil leaves, stacked, rolled into cylinder, thinly sliced crosswise

½ cup (125 mL) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

2 tbsp (30 mL) unsalted butter

¼ cup (60 mL) extra-virgin olive oil


For Basil-Garlic oil, in small saucepan, heat oil, garlic, basil and chili flakes over low heat, 20 to 30 minutes, until garlic starts to brown. Strain; discarding solids. Reserve oil.

For Tomato Sauce, core fresh tomatoes with paring knife. Score bottom of each tomato with an X.

Fill medium bowl with cold water; add ice.

Heat large saucepan of water over high until boiling. Add tomatoes. Cook 1 minute. Using slotted spoon, transfer tomatoes to ice bath. When cool, peel by hand starting from X. Halve tomatoes lengthwise. Remove seeds with spoon or your fingers; discard. Seed canned tomatoes same way.

In medium saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add fresh and canned tomatoes with juices. Cook 5 minutes to soften. Smash with potato masher. Simmer 25 minutes, smashing and stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens. Remove from heat. Stir in Basil-Garlic Oil. Taste; season with salt and pepper if desired. Makes about 3 cups (750 mL). Refrigerate up to 2 days, or freeze up to 3 months, and use as needed.

To make pasta, fill large pot with water and generously season with salt. Bring to boil over high heat. Add spaghetti. Cook as per package instructions 1 minute less than al dente. Reserve ¼ cup (60 mL) cooking liquid, then drain pasta.

Meanwhile, warm Tomato Sauce in medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add drained pasta and 2 tbsp (30 mL) reserved cooking liquid (to add starch and seasoning). Cook 1 minute, tossing pasta and sauce together with 2 wooden spoons (not tongs) by lifting pasta and dropping it back into pan. (This helps introduce air and create a lighter/brighter dish. You can also use the pan-jerking methods that chefs prefer.) Do this until pasta is just tender and sauce, if any oil had separated, looks cohesive. If sauce seems too thick, add remaining 2 tbsp (30 mL) pasta cooking liquid; toss until incorporated.

Remove from heat. Add basil, cheese, butter and oil. Toss until well-incorporated. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

From the October 22, 2010 Toronto Star