Thursday, May 1, 2008

Pasta con Aglio e Olio (Pasta w/Garlic & Olive Oil)

Photo: Courtesy of the Costa Mesa Daily Pilot
Don't you love the bowl of pasta on the kids head?

I am almost embarrassed to say that I hadn't even heard of this dish until I was in my late 20's and living in Southern California. This is probably one of the simplest and most satisfying pasta dishes that one can make at home.
There was a funky restaurant called "Pasta Connection" in Costa Mesa, California that that offered this as one of more than 20+ pasta dishes that were all made to order.
The flavor of the restaurant was Italian and they had wine and deli items to go. The one hitch was, none of the people who owned or worked there were Italian. I am guessing that the entire crew spoke English as a second language but I would also venture a guess that their first language was Spanish and not Italian.
Anyway, these guys served up what I consider to be the "gold standard" of this dish. I have had it at many restaurants and and paid much more than the $4.95 they used to charge in 1988. It is a dish that is so simple and so easy to make, yet it punches well above its weight at the dinner table.
When I dropped my son off for school this morning and asked him what he wanted for dinner, he responded "Pasta". Between you and me, I don't think that he will be disappointed at dinner time.

Pasta con Aglio e Olio

1/4 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 head (not a typo.)of Garlic-peel and mince half and thinly slice the other half
1 tsp. Red Pepper flakes
1 handful Italian Parsley -coarsely chopped
1/2 cup Chicken broth ( maybe nonna didn't use this, but it is damn good)
1/2 cup pasta water
1 lb. Spaghetti


I was going to go into this detailed instruction about how to prepare this pasta, but I am taking a page out of the Heather Anderson school of cooking at (Gild the Voodoolily). Besides, it seems a little over the top when the list of ingredients is smaller than the instructions to cook this-remember, this isn't brain surgery.
Basically, heat the oil, add the pepper flakes

then toss in the sliced garlic. When the sliced garlic is fragrant turn off the heat. Keep an eye on this since if you brown the garlic it is ruined.

When your pasta is done go ahead and crank up the saute pan and add the rest of the garlic, the parsley and all the liquid-toss in the noodles and stir and serve immediately!

This would go well with hearty bread (in Portland, Oregon that mean Grand Central, Ken's or Pearl Bakery) and a good Italian "food wine"-think Chianti or Barbera since both have alot of natural acidity and go excellent with almost all Mediterranean food.

Buon Appetito