The recipe that Scott George is sharing with Edibles is as colorful as his life — and the wild print trousers for which he is famous for wearing. It is his own creation, inspired by a dish he ate in 1991 in Italy.
George’s livelihood then was managing opera singers. He had traveled to Florence, Italy, for an opening night. After the opera, the singers took him to a tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant to eat this pasta and challenged him to identify its main ingredient. He could not.
It turned out to be beets. On returning to New York, George searched cookbook after cookbook for a recipe. He could not find one and finally created his own, which he is sharing here for the first time. He estimates that he has served the dish to about 60 people. Only two could identify the key ingredient.
George grew up in New York City in a Russian family and was christened at the Greek Orthodox cathedral there. He has been cooking since a young age.
“My mother was a white Russian princess who had two meals in her,” he says. “If I didn’t cook, that’s all I would have had to eat.”
George and John Mason, his partner for 30 years, love to entertain. Their format of choice is a sit-down dinner for eight, and they enjoy putting people together. They routinely have 20 for a Christmas Eve dinner that features standing rib roast, Yorkshire pudding, ham and an English trifle for dessert. When they lived in the former Emily Post house in Tuxedo Park, N.Y., before coming here in 1998, the holiday gatherings were even larger, including one with a polka band.
George likes to cook simple dishes, such as this one.
“John does the fancy stuff — béarnaise, hollandaise, mayonnaise — and cleans up,” he says.
Mason is a consultant for non-profits, with clients from Honolulu to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
George and Mason left Sarasota briefly in March 2010 for Shaker Heights, Ohio. They came back this September, and George returned to “the major love of my work life — real estate.”
He was confident that he had made the right decision when he got his first listing in two weeks and sold it in just 40 days.
“We wanted to come home,” he says, “and we are home.”
Scott George’s ‘Mystery Pasta’ (Aka Linguine with Beet Pesto)
Start to finish: 50 minutes; Servings: 6
3 large beets
5 cloves garlic (less if you don’t like it)
1 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano in small cubes
1/4 cup pignoli
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt
1 pound linguine
Fresh basil for garnish
Prep everything in advance, and you can make the sauce in the time it takes for the pasta to cook. Scrub beets and peel with a vegetable peeler. Cut into small cubes. Cover with cold water, bring to boil and cook uncovered 25 to 30 minutes until tender. Drain. Beets can be prepared ahead; refrigerate if holding more than a couple of hours. Peel garlic.
Cooking the pasta
While beets are cooking, fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Salt lightly and add a splash of olive oil, if desired, to keep the pasta from sticking. Add pasta, and stir to separate strands. Linguine will take approximately 10 to 12 minutes to cook to al dente. Drain.
Put the garlic in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
Add the cheese and pulse until finely ground. Add beets and olive oil and process to form an almost-smooth puree. Add pignoli and a pinch of Kosher salt and process until well combined.
Serve the room-temperature pesto on hot pasta, garnished with sprigs of fresh basil.
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