‘Peace, Love and Pasta’: Chef Scott Conant revisits his family’s favorite meals in book
By Alex Gallagher
Chef Scott Conant has been delighting diners with his award-winning cuisine for 35 years and has captivated audiences with his tenure as a judge on the Food Network shows “Chopped” and “Chopped Sweets.”
More recently, he has inspired readers with his latest cookbook, “Peace, Love and Pasta: Simple and Elegant Recipes from a Chef’s Home Kitchen.”
As the fourth cookbook to be penned by Conant, he wanted this cookbook to be more personal.
“‘Peace, Love and Pasta’ is genuinely me cooking from my home kitchen, while my earlier books were much more restaurant focused,” the Scottsdale resident says.
While he has been cooking in kitchens across the world for over three decades, it was the dishes he procured in his home kitchen that shine in the book.
“It wasn’t until I had children that I started to cook more at home and, frankly, it wasn’t until the pandemic that I was cooking at home every day,” Conant says. “While I was testing these recipes, I was also putting dinner on the table for the girls and having fun doing it. This book is a culmination of that and truly about me cooking for my family.”
For the New England and Italian recipes, Conant revisited the recipes that his grandparents made — mostly out of ingredients grown in their garden.
“My grandparents absolutely influenced me to cook Italian food, 100%. The nostalgia of their garden growing up continues to inspire me every day,” he says. “I always say I can’t smell basil without thinking of my grandfather and standing together in his garden.”
Conant credits his grandfather as being one of his first culinary arts teachers.
“Throughout my childhood, my grandfather would constantly point things out to me like, ‘This is fennel. These are borlotti beans. This is basil,’ and so on.” he says. “My decision to cook Italian food stems from them, while the decision to be a chef came from experiencing the camaraderie that I found in the kitchen. I just love that sense of team.”
It was their cooking that made him fall in love with food.
“We used to eat their zucchini flowers like popcorn,” Conant says. “My mother would fry them to perfection, and they were incredible.”
When he wasn’t snacking on zucchini flowers, Conant enjoyed several other dishes his early idols perfected, including his grandfather’s borlotti bean soup and his mother’s “Sunday sauce.”
“My grandfather used to make this borlotti bean soup, which was brothy with tomatoes, onions, garlic and olive oil, thickened by the starch of the beans; it was basically all boiled together. He would sometimes add fennel to it,” Conant says. “I distinctly recall the flavors of the beans and fennel together, and it was spectacular.”
While borlotti bean soup is a favorite dish, Conant has another go-to recipe — his mother’s “Sunday sauce.”
“The chicken cutlets with melted tomatoes and burrata — I can eat that every day of my life,” he says.
That says a lot, but he has one dish he adores.
“The caramelized onion risotto with braised short ribs is hands down my favorite. I would make it right now if I could,” Conant says. “A very close second to that is the Turkish Manti. When we were shooting the photography for the book, that was my team’s favorite dish.”
Some of these dishes have made their way onto the menu at Conant’s restaurants, and all of them have received rave reviews from the eateries’ guests and his family.
“A few of the dishes are served in the restaurants, some are inspired by the restaurants, and I wouldn’t put anything in a book if it wasn’t overwhelmingly positively received from my family or guests,” Conant says.
While Conant and his family have a love for pasta, he hopes the book can help readers find the same peace he finds when he cooks.
“Besides the reference to cooking pasta, it’s a nod to my own evolution to a certain extent,” he says. “I feel like I’ve gotten to this point where I’m more settled. With that kind of peace of mind comes a lot of peace and love.”
When Conant is not writing a cookbook, on TV or cooking for his family, he is kept busy with his restaurants: the Americano in Scottsdale; Mora Italiano, a modern osteria in Phoenix; and Cellaio, an Italian steakhouse at Resorts World Catskills in Monticello, New York.
“Scottsdale is such a great place to do business, to live and spend time with family. It made perfect sense to move here,” he says.
As for his book, he hopes it can help solve the age-old question of “what’s for dinner?”
“I hope that people are inspired to cook these dishes and make these recipes part of their home repertoire,” Conant says. “I remember as a kid, my mom always wondered, ‘What are we going to have for dinner?’ Hopefully, there’s a couple of your new favorites inside this book for your family.”
Scott Conant is hosting two dining events to celebrate his book’s release. From 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, October 19, he’ll lead a dinner at The Americano, 17797 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, $175, bit.ly/SCxAmericanoOct19; and 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, October 17, Mora Italiano, 5651 N. Seventh Street, Phoenix, $155, bit.ly/SCxMoraOct27.
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