A chef friend of mine once described a good cook as "one who can make a great dish with only a few ingredients."
This dish is a great starter because it only has a few ingredients but they must be chosen and prepared carefully to make it work. When you sauté the garlic in the oil, make sure you get a good whiff, it's one of the greatest aromas in cooking and one you will never forget.
Pasta with Garlic and Oil also called Aglio Et Olio
Let's look at the ingredients more closely:
Pasta - The best pasta for this recipe is either a dry factory-made spagetti or very thin spaghettini because it's ability to stand up and not be overpowered by the oil-based sauce. A fresh homemade, egg based pasta would be over powered and absorb too much of the sauce.
When cooking pasta :
- Figure about 4 ounces of dry pasta per person in other words a 1 pound package should yield 4 servings.
- Use plenty of water (at least 4 quarts per pound) so that it doesn't stick together.
- Add approx. 1 tablespoon of sea salt per pound of pasta. This will bring out the flavor of the pasta. When the water returns to a boil, add the pasta.
- Don't break the pasta to fit the pot, use a spoon (wooden) to bend it as it cooks.
- Stir the pasta often to prevent sticking.
- DON'T Over Cook the Pasta!
- One pound of spaghetti takes approx. 8 to 10 minutes to cook but check it frequently until it's "al dente" (firm to the bite).
- As soon as the pasta is done, drain it in a colander.
- Saucing - depending on the recipe, sometimes I plate the pasta and top it with sauce or I will combine the sauce and pasta in a bowl, mix well, and then serve. For this dish, I combine the two immediately.
- DON'T over sauce the pasta! Let the flavor of the pasta stand out.
- Adding cheese - if the recipe calls for grated cheese (this one doesn't), add some before tossing and have some extra at the table.
Salt - Used throughout the ages, the salt I prefer is sea salt. It comes from the process of evaporating seawater and is more expensive than mined salt but I think adds more depth and character to whatever you're cooking. Because we don't add any salt to this recipe, it's vital to add it to the water when we cook the pasta.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil - There is more to know about olive oil than I will ever learn in this lifetime. With so many types of olives and different growing areas, I hope to spend many enjoyable hours tasting and educating my palate. This recipe calls for Extra Virgin which is cold pressed (no use of heat or chemicals allowed) comes from the first pressing, and has a maximum Oleic Acid (bitterness) content of 1%. Virgin olive oil on the other hand comes from the 2nd or 3rd pressing with a maximum Oleic Acid content of 4%. Which oil you use depends on what you like and how deep are your pockets.
Garlic - What can I say.I love it! I grew up on garlic powder like many of you may have. But when I started cooking with real garlic, I was hooked for life. There are basically three types of garlic and which one you use will depend on taste and availability. The three are:
- American garlic, which is white skinned and has the strongest flavor.
- Italian garlic, which has mauve colored skin and is more mild flavored.
- Elephant garlic which is huge and has the mildest flavor of the three.
When choosing, look for firm heads with dry skins that feel heavy for their size. Stay away from any that are shriveled, brittle, turning yellow, or comes in a jar already cut up. For the record, after years of effort, I was finally able to persuade my folks to make the switch.
Parsley - Although there are more than 30 varieties, there are two types of parsley that I'm familar with; flat-leafed Italian parsley and curly-leafed parsley. Is there a difference in flavor? I think so. I like to cook with flat-leafed parsley and use the curly leafed to decorate my plates. And in most recipes, fresh is better than dried.
Black pepper - Comes from black peppercorns that are picked slightly unripe and dried until they shrivel. The best black peppers are know to be the Tellicherry and Lampong and have a spicy hot but sweet flavor. Note once you grind a peppercorn, it will quickly loose its aroma.