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Spaghettii with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil

Adapted from: Scott Conant's New Italian Cooking, by Scott Conant with Joanne McAllister Smart (Broadway, October 2005). Yield: 4 servings.

20 ripe plum tomatoes
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to finish dish
pinch of crushed red pepper
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. Rummo Lenta Lavorazione Spaghetti
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
6-8 fresh basil leaves, well washed and dried, stacked and rolled into a cylinder, cut thinly crosswise into a chiffonade
1 oz. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/2 cup)

To peel tomatoes: Bring a large pot of water to boil. Have a large bowl of ice water nearby. Cut a small X on the bottom of each tomato. Ease about 5 tomatoes into pot and let boil for about 15 seconds, then promptly transfer them to ice water. Repeat with remaining tomatoes. Pull off tomato skin with tip of paring knife. If it sticks, use vegetable peeler and gentle sawing motion. Cut tomatoes in half and use finger to flick out seeds.

To cook tomatoes: In wide pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add tomatoes, crushed red pepper, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook tomatoes for a few minutes to soften. Then, using potato masher, finely chop tomatoes. Cook for 20-25 minutes, until tomatoes are tender and sauce has thickened.

To serve: Bring large pot of amply salted water to boil. Cook spaghetti just shy of al dente. Reserve a little cooking water. Add pasta to sauce and cook over medium-high heat, gently tossing pasta and sauce together with a couple of wooden spoons until pasta is just tender and the sauce, if any oil separated from it, looks cohesive. If sauce seems too thick, add a little of the reserved cooking water. Remove pan from heat, toss butter, basil and cheese with pasta (it should take on an orange hue). Serve immediately.