Cass and I went to eat lunch at my parent’s house yesterday and I started geeking out over my mom’s cookbooks. She has a ton, and there are some great ones, covered with splatters of oil or chocolate, that have wonderful food photography and such pretty design that my page looks like a scribble in the world of food blogging (which, I guess, it kind of is. I’m still learning.) Anyways, we were thumbing through Barefoot Contessa’s How Easy Is That? cookbook and found a lovely recipe called spaghetti aglio e olio. Basically, garlic and oil spaghetti.
“Let’s do it,” Cass said. He’s a sucker for anything garlicky.
We took a couple of pictures of the recipe and hurried to the tiny HyVee just a few blocks away. It was exciting; it was a new recipe that neither of us had eaten or attempted before. We were pumped.
One of the most interesting parts of cooking in rural southern Iowa is creativity with ingredients. In our hometown of roughly 1,500 people, there are exactly 2 grocery stores with a combined total of maybe 12 aisles. If you want anything more ethnic than Old El Paso refried beans, you have to take a trek to the WalMart 40 minutes away. Fresh parsley and parmesan are also part of that drive-to-get-it category. We had to settle for Tone’s parsley flakes and bumming a hunk of fresh parmesan off of my mom (she gets hers at Costco).
So this is what you need:
- kosher salt
- 1lb spaghetti
- 1/3 C olive oil
- 8 sliced garlic cloves (a garlic clove is just ONE of the sections of a whole garlic bulb. Don’t buy 8 garlic bulbs- you’ll only need two!)
- 1/2 TSP red pepper flakes
- 1/2 C parsley (8 teaspoons of parsley flakes (like what we had to use) is the equivalent to 1/2 cup of the fresh stuff!)
- 1 C parmesan
I understand that no matter how “easy” someone tells you a recipe is, it’s always kind of hard and intimidating the first time you try it. This recipe was no exception, but I think we pulled it off pretty well. Here’s the procedure:
- Boil the pound of pasta according to instructions on the box with a dash of salt.
- Set aside 1 and a half cups of the pasta water before draining. (Cass just held a liquid measuring cup under the pot as I poured the spaghetti into a strainer.)
- In a separate pot, heat olive oil at medium. (We used the original pot since it was empty. Hurray for saving dishes!)
- Add the sliced garlic and cook for two minutes. Stir frequently until it just begins to turn golden on the edges. Do not overcook the garlic. (This definitely did NOT take us 2 minutes- it was more like one.)
- Add the red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds more. (Since the garlic cooked so fast, I would recommend having the red pepper flakes and pasta water ready to pour in immediately to avoid overcooking!)
- Add pasta water and bring everything to just a boil.
- Lower heat, add 1 TSP of salt, and simmer for 5 minutes. The liquid should be reduced by 1/3 when it’s done.
- Add drained pasta to the garlic sauce, and toss well.
- Take the pot off heat and add the parsley and parmesan. Toss well. (After you toss it, let it all sit for a couple of minutes- you want the parmesan to melt and all of the flavors to get combined.)
- Serve and top with freshly ground parmesan.
We were really nervous during the cooking process because of the sliced garlic. We were afraid that the slices would be vampire-killing-strength if you bit into one. Turns out that cooking it into the olive oil makes it not as strong- although this meal is still really garlicky!- so that you can eat the slices without being overpowered by it.
Also, we severely underestimated the power of red pepper flakes. I almost added a little more just so the pasta would be more colorful, but that would have been a huge mistake. That tiny 1/2 TSP can pack a punch!
This dish was surprisingly flavorful, and SO good. It was also a nice change from spaghetti with boring old Prego tomato sauce- we’re keeping this one!