Peace, Love, And Pasta: Home Cooking With Chef Scott Conant

Food & Drink

During the pandemic, even celebrity chefs had to pivot.

Celebrity chef Scott Conant typically travels to food festivals and TV studios, and makes guest appearances here and abroad. He also racks up quite a few frequent flyer miles shuttling between his restaurants in Arizona and New York. Like many working parents, his lifestyle always entails deftly juggling work and family.

However, the pandemic bore a silver lining for Conant. “Everything was shut down: the restaurants, the studios, everything,” he says. His life suddenly became less complicated.

This allowed him to expend more time at home with his loved ones, the place where he feels most at peace, and to work on his latest cookbook, Peace, Love, and Pasta: Simple and Elegant Recipes from a Chef’s Home Kitchen (Abrams, New York, 2021).

About the chef

A 35-year veteran of the restaurant industry, Chef Conant currently helms the kitchens of three Italian-inspired eateries: Mora Italian, an upscale osteria in Phoenix, Arizona, and two steakhouses, Cellaio at Resorts World Catskills in Monticello, New York, and The Americano in North Scottsdale, Arizona. 

Coupling boundless energy with an entrepreneurial spirit, he also has created his own line of cooking and pantry essentials, Sprezza.

Through frequent appearances on The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Chew, CBS’ The Talk, Best Baker in America; and serving as a judge on Chopped and hosting the spin-off Chopped Sweets, Chef Conant is known for his joyful, accessible approach to cooking. 

His personality and infectious smile almost leap off the pages of this new cookbook, his most personal one to date. The chapter introductions are semi-biographical, drawn from his disparate experiences across the country and around the globe. They incorporate his own culinary heritage and that of family and friends.

About the new book

The appealing recipes, many of them comfort foods—perfect for these stressful and turbulent times—are written clearly with straightforward directions, all beautifully photographed. The book also offers helpful tips on kitchen products and techniques.

Chef Jose Andres, the founder of World Central Kitchen, called Peace, Love, and Pasta “a beautiful tribute to the home kitchen; the simple, honest food we make for our families and friends.” spoke with Chef Conant about the new book and the process of writing it:

What is the concept behind Peace, Love and Pasta?

The idea was to showcase the food I cook at home for my family. I have some great memories of the food I grew up with and the food I cooked earlier in my career.

I realized that as you evolve as a cook, you kind of stop making dishes you learned early on. When I do make those dishes now, I cook them at home with my family, for my daughters. I wanted to document my own evolution and share some of the dishes I’ve always loved.

Was the book written during the pandemic?

I started the book prior to the pandemic but more of the work and recipe testing took place during the throes of the pandemic. We finished it in September 2020.

The good news was that it allowed me to spend more time at home, which is something I was never able to do before. I cherish the moments during which I was able to watch my daughters growing up before my eyes. That was a blessing.

How have your prior travels influenced this book?

There are so many parts of this book that wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for my travels. The book includes recipes that I cooked as a kid when I was growing up in Waterbury, Connecticut (known for its robust population of Italian-Americans) and dishes that I made in Italy, Germany, Austria, and Turkey.

And now, they’ve become things I cook at home as part of my repertoire. There’s an old saying: “The farther you go, the less you know.” I’ve always tried to expand my knowledge and that requires leaving home.

How can home cooks best find authentic ingredients?

It’s much easier than it looks. Nowadays, you can find most specialty products online. That’s what I do and I rely on a couple of local stores that carry specialty foods. You can discern what’s best once you taste them and find out what works for you.

There’s even an authenticity to a lot of the ingredients that people are producing right here in the United States, some of which are excellent quality. Charcuterie is a great example, salumi and things like that.

Why do you and other food enthusiasts have such an affinity for pasta?

Pasta is ultimately comforting regardless of your cultural background. A bowl of noodles from where you are in this world speaks to hominess, family, warmth, and simple honesty with food. All of this resonates with people. 

How has your wife’s Turkish heritage influenced your cooking and the book?

The book has an entire chapter dedicated to Turkish food. It’s really a big part of our household. These are dishes my daughters love and we love to cook them for them.

I didn’t want the book to be such a departure that people would be confused and think, “Why is Scott putting out a Turkish cookbook as opposed to the Italian food that he always cooks?”

There’s a little bit of everything in Peace, Love, and Pasta: Turkish, Italian, German, Austrian and American influences.

What impact do you think the pandemic will have on the restaurant industry more broadly?

Until we figure out where the industry stands from a labor perspective and from a good supply and food chain perspective, I think we’re all just reacting and figuring out the future.

Note: This conversation has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

NB: Some of the mouth-watering dishes from Peace, Love, and Pasta can be sampled at Cellaio, including Tagliatelle, Pasta al Pomodoro, Raviolini, Gnocchetti, and variations on Polenta “Boscaiola” and Fritto Misto.

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