Scarpetta at the Fontainebleau – Cooking Pasta with Chef Scott Conant
Photos By Jason Hesch
I was treated to a fabulous pasta making demonstration by Chef Scott Conant at his restaurant, the Scarpetta located in the luxurious Fontainebleau Hotel on Miami Beach. This upcoming fall and holiday season you can partake in a new intro to pasta making series and sample their new seasonal menu. To begin, Chef Conant explained a variety of different kinds of pasta he makes on premise. They ranged from simple, but classic, spaghetti to the most extravagant pasta I’ve ever seen, a double-sided long flat noodle with lobster on one side and squid ink the other. We usually associate lobster with red color, the lobster side of the pasta was a pale green color this time. Chef Conant explained that’s because we are seeing it in its raw form and this green color will turn a nice coral red when cooked. Other kinds of pasta mentioned included a cute pasta called peachy.
Chef Conant uses several different types of dough. Along with gluten-free dough, one type of dough that caught my ear was what is called double zero flour. The squid ink pasta was made with this flour. “This flour makes a tremendous difference in your product, then using all-purpose flour. The texture is sublime.” He continued, by saying double-zero is not about the grain but about the grind. It’s super fine flour. Next up was an explanation about the making of their tomato sauce. The sauce is made with fresh tomatoes, peeled and seeded, and the interior is squeezed out. The seeds and juice are then strained. What is left is the flesh and meaty bits along with the juice. It is cooked in a very hot pot with salt and extra virgin olive oil, then the necessary liquids are added to give it the proper consistency. The whole process is not cooked more than 40 minutes.
One secret in making his sauce is to use crushed the tomatoes only, never pureed. Chef Conant finds pureeing makes the sauce too fine. He likes a bit of flex and texture that holds on to the pasta when crushed with a potato masher. To finish a splash of extra virgin olive oil, crushed red pepper, garlic, and basil is added to the mix and treated like a tea with an infusion of flavor. After straining the pepper and basil out, this is not wasted but used in a focaccia bread. The herb and spice “tea” maintains a level of freshness in sauce with a great balance of soupiness from the tomatoes, fat content, and acidity. The final touch to the sauce is an emulsion of butter and Parmesan cheese.
Finally, it was time to get our hands dirty. The pasta we made that night was a short rib agnolotti dal plin. If the short-rib alone was not rich enough, Chef Conant adds bone marrow to the mix. The pasta’s name comes from the pinching action for separating as this ravioli-like pasta from its long strip with pinched on both ends. The dough is made with egg semolina, olive oil, double zero flour, and adjusted with a bit of water. Although there are quite a bit of egg ingredients, it’s not enough to give this pasta it’s rich luscious yellow cream color. There is one more secret ingredient that is added — a hint of eggnog. And voila, dinner time! Dinner was a mixture of classic and new dishes, served in four tastings.
First course: Primi Piatti
Arugula Salad: Toasted pine nuts, pecorino & truccioletto vinaigrette. I always love arugula salad. Arugula has a bitter bite to it which melds with the scallops flavor, and pine nuts giving the soft leaves a decisive crunch. The dressing reminded me of a light summer breeze. The freshly shaved pecorino cheese is the bread holding this dish together.
Creamy Polenta: Fricassee of truffled mushrooms. Very creamy soft polenta, almost like a warm soup. Its flavor and smoothness hold the delicately cooked mushrooms together while giving it a gumminess, like a bubble tea with tapioca balls.
Roasted Diver Scallops: Spiced butternut squash puree, picked pear & crispy chicken skin. The crumbly pear went well with the salad along with the savoriness of umami with the scallops. The softness of the scallops with the grittiness of the pear was an excellent tastebud combination!
Second course: Pasta
Spaghetti: tomato & basil. A classic made to perfections. The pasted cooked to absolute perfect doneness. A.k.a. al dente. Meaty with the slightest bit of chew. The noodles are thick, long and luscious. The tomato sauce clings to the pasta like glue. Lobster Tagliatelle: Ricci di mare, saffron creme & herbed breadcrumbs. When first introduced to this pasta during the cooking demonstration I was elated to see it on my plate. Oh, the taste of it. Squid ink pasta is a fine delicacy and rarely do I see it on menus. But combined with a lobster pasta, which I never heard of before, this dish oozes with seafood flavor. Along with huge chunks of lobster, the breadcrumbs tie it all together, almost like a crab cake. With a sampling of both kinds of pasta on my plate, I can picture a field of grain waving in the wind. Seafood pasta and spaghetti is like earth and sea coming together.
Third course: Piatti
Prawns: potatoes, calabrian chilli butter & toasted filone. The shrimp is simply cooked. The heads are added to the dish to add extra flavor. Served with toasted crusty bread to soak up the juices. The potato balls were soft and cute.
Oven Roasted Chicken: Truffled celery root puree, brussel sprouts & maitake mushrooms. The chicken was sliced think. Moist and tender. With a skin on top that was wonderfully fattening underneath and crunchy corn flake on top. Again, yummy breadcrumbs round out this dish.
Fourth course: Dolce
Brulled Lemon Tart: Roasted figs, hazelnut & vanilla frozen yogurt. This custard pie had a splattering of burnt sugar on top. The lemon tart came in a wedge slice shaped like a slice of key lime pie or cheesecake. It was not a lemon bar but tasted like one. It was served at room temperature. The frozen yogurt was creamy, cold and also tart flavor. The roasted figs gave the whole dish as divinely richness to it. This is the fruit of the ancient royalty, you can see all those Game of Thrones family members munching down on figs. Figs used to be a sign of wealth. The seeds of the figs bursts in your mouth with a firecracker explosion mixed with sweetness, but not so sweet and gooey. The crumble hazelnut was delicious as well. I topped off this wonderful filling meal with an espresso.
Want to learn how to make Scarpetta’s acclaimed pasta dishes at home? Scarpetta will be offering a pasta making class led by Chef de Cuisine Neil O’Connell and pasta maker, Roberto Fernandez. Launching Saturday, December 2nd the interactive cooking class and demo will be offered the first Saturday of every month from 12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. All classes are open to adults and children 12 years old and up for $75 per person. Over the course of 90 minutes, pasta lovers will learn how to make basic dough making, tomato sauce, ravioli and spaghetti making and filling, and handling, cooking and serving of pasta. The class will finish with a tasting of the delicious dishes they handmade. Completed recipe cards for the tomato sauce and pasta dough will be provided to each guest. For additional details, visit fontainebleau.com/specials/scarpetta-pasta-class. To reserve your spot please call Scarpetta at 305-674-4660
Scarpetta is located at 4441 Collins Avenue, within the Sorrento Tower. Valet for 5 hours is $25. Dinner is served nightly beginning at 6 p.m. Dinner reservations are required and can be made by calling 877-326-7412.