Scott Conant is a man of many talents. Chef, TV personality, cookbook author, and father. But also: Santa Claus. The father of two girls acquired his first Santa suit a few years ago, which he now keeps in tow for Christmas.
"When I put it on last year, my wife goes to me, "Honey how smart of you to stick a pillow in as the belly?" he says. "There was no pillow." He laughs it off but the pasta extraordinaire admits to having oodles of spaghetti as a kid every Christmas eve. Today he's on the flip side doing the cooking for his family, but even with the opening of Corsair and flying back to NYC to get into his Santa suit and cook up a feast, he's taken the time to give us the recipe to that childhood dish he's nostalgic about.
"It's spaghetti with aglio olio and alici and I had it every year growing up." As for his adult Christmas, the chef likes to keep it simple, or so he says. "I'll probably make some spaghetti and throw in a some lobster. Maybe roast a whole fish." Apparently, that is the definition of Christmas in Scott Conant's house. And while we're not invited to join in on the merry feast, you can try and recreate your own Italian Christmas at home with his special childhood recipe, as adapted from his cookbook Bold Italian.
Spaghetti Aglio Olio and Alici
No pasta could be easier than spaghetti and olive oil, right? Yet I can't believe how badly this sublime and simple pasta gets made, with not enough oil, undercooked garlic, and the addition of cheese, which I think is sinful. Here's my spaghetti aio e oio.
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound good quality dried spaghetti
3 very thinly sliced garlic cloves
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, more to taste (optional)
4 pieces anchovies in oil
Method: Bring a large pot of very well salted water to a boil. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Start cooking the spaghetti. While it cooks, add the garlic and 4 pieces of anchovies to the pan with just enough heat so that it sizzles gently. Using a fork, crush anchovies so they dissolve in the oil. Add the crushed red pepper flakes. While the garlic is cooking, add 1 cup of the pasta water and a pinch of salt. Keep cooking, shaking the pan to create an emulsion, until the oil and water mixture no longer has that very harsh raw garlic flavor. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and add it to the pan, along with the chopped parsley, if using, tossing to coat. Serve immediately.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha