Last week the snow melted and I was able to tip toe out into the garden to peek in on the garlic bulbs I planted last November. There’s nothing popping through yet, but I’m anxiously awaiting this year’s crop, my second. I’ve planted an “extra sweet” type of garlic and I can’t wait to add it to my recipes. I’ve been blessed by being surrounded by family and friends that love garlic as much as I do and don’t find it odd that I’m happily celebrating National Garlic Month.
My grandparents used it liberally. My university roommate and I would eat shawarma and middle eastern potatoes smoothered in a fluffly garlic sauce at least once a week and spend the night breathing the sweet odour in the apartment. Now my husband uses garlic as if it were as common place a condiment as ketchup or pepper. Peeling, smashing, grating and sauteeing the bulbs with almost every meal, he insists he does it to fight away colds but I think he’s just a product of this grandmother’s addiction to heavy garlic. Her favourite: pasta with oil and mounds (and mounds!) of minced garlic. So thick sometimes that it burns.
Pasta with oil and garlic…pasta con aglio e olio…is a classic, simple, Italian dish that everyone knows how to make. It’s the perfect late night snack and the easiest dinner “go to” when you are rushing to get a meal on the table. If you want to be delicate with your flavours, you can slice the garlic thick, sautee it in the oil then remove it so you are not eating full chunks of garlic. Or you can take it on with full force as we do.
The recipe is an easy one, but just to make it a little more interesting, I’ve paired with an unusal pasta: squid ink pasta (pasta al nero di seppia). It has a slightly fishy smell once it hits the boiling water, but prepared on your plate it’s flavour is is more of the “sea” than fish and it is unusually slippery.
Pasta con Aglio e Olio
20 oz squid ink pasta (or other pasta)
3 garlic cloves sliced or minced
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
2 tablespoons olive oil
Grated Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese to taste
Set a large pot of water on to boil. Meanwhile remove the cloves of garlic from a bulb. Peel and mince or slice the garlic.
Once the pot of water is boiling, add salt to the water and the squid ink pasta. Allow the pasta to boil according to the package instructions, usually 10-15 minutes, until al dente.
When the pasta has just a few minutes left in its cooking time, heat your olive oil in a pan. When the oil is heated through, add in the garlic and chili pepper flakes. You can add as much, or as little, of each ingredient to suite your taste. Allow this to cook, but don’t brown or burn the garlic.
Once the pasta is cooked, scoop it out of the water with a strainer directly into the pan and toss to coat. If you wish to remove the garlic, do so before you add the pasta. If the oil is not smoothly coating the pasta, add in a few tablespoons of the pasta water to the pan and toss.
Make sure you toss the pasta briefly and don’t allow it to overcook. Serve immediately with a generous amount of Parmiggiano cheese.