I really need to keep some decent intervals here, but unfortunately, nobody is yelling at me if I forget to post. It doesn’t help that I’m hopelessly lazy and short on herbs to write fillers about. So instead of trying to fight it, I’m going to yield to my nature (nice and mystic excuse, isn’t it?) and post the ultimate Lazy Recipe today.
This is what You do when You have no ingredients for other, more complicated dishes, or when You are dead against doing any work. It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s delicious. Quite healthy, too. So if there’s need to impress someone and do it fast, or just whip up something tasty while being absolutely exhausted, this is what You need.
Spaghetti aglio e olio – meaning literally ‘garlic and oil’ – is the simplest pasta recipe You could ever come across. Its only downside is that the ingredients must be of reasonable quality, because every little fault will show in a dish so simple. So use good, fresh garlic, high quality cheese (italian hard is best here) and only, absolutely only, olive oil. Other oils, even expensive ones such as grape seed oil, do not have the same aroma and they will result in something dull and bland.
- Spaghetti no. 5 – as usual.
- Garlic – three cloves per person at least.
- Olive oil – quite a lot, for this particular dish, since it doesn’t contain anything else. But the exact amount depends on how oily You want it to be.
- Cheese – a healthy amount of strong, piquant cheese. Grana padano is Your best bet, followed by parmesan.
- Green olives – optional.
- Seasoning herbs - fresh basil, oregano, maybe fresh rosemary (sometimes, fresh parsley is used for this dish).
- A frying pan big enough to hold everything is necessary, because You will be throwing all of the pasta onto it.
- A (wooden) pestle if You want to do it my way.
Since the ‘sauce’ consists of garlic heated with olive oil, there’s not much to do. So get the water for boiling the pasta ready, because everything else can be done while spaghetti is already in. As You wait for the water to reach the boiling point, grate the cheese and dice the olives if You feel like adding them.
As the water boils, put the pasta in. Remember to stir it so that it won’t stick. Peel the garlic cloves and slice them, then pour olive oil onto the pan and heat it up.
Smashing pumpk- er, mashing garlic on a frying pan.
Now Your regular aglio e olio recipe will tell You to chop the garlic into small bits and toss it into the oil. But if You do that, You end up with garlic-flavoured oil (which is good) and small bits of semi-fried garlic that fly around and inevitably fall down to congregate on the bottom of the plate (which is bad). What we want, on the other hand, is a smooth mix of oil and garlic that spreads nicely on our pasta. So what do we do?
This is where the wooden pestle comes in. I say wooden, because I use a teflon-covered pan, but even for other kinds wood is the best material to use here. I’m certainly not going to bash at it with my marble pestle, especially since it wouldn’t accomplish much.
If You have a wooden pestle, slice the garlic and put the slices straight onto the frying pan. Then, use the pestle to mash the garlic while mixing it with the oil already there. Why, do You ask? Well, You could mash it in a mortar, but then You would have to transport it from one utensil to another and a) lose some of it in the process, b) have to wash all that has been used to do it. Mashing it straight on the pan prevents all that and ensures that all of our garlic ends up in the dish, while resulting in a smoother, more ‘sauce-like’ mixture.
If You’re not going to do this, chop the garlic into fine pieces and add it to the oil. Either way, heat them up together, stirring from time to time. Watch out not to overdo the heat – the garlic must not brown.
When spaghetti is ready (according to Your personal tastes), drain it and put all of it onto the pan where the garlic is cooking. Mix it gently to spread the oil and garlic on all of Your pasta. Add the seasoning and cheese – You’re done.
Little known fact about this dish - it isn't very photogenic.
Despite this long and rambling description, aglio e olio can be made in approximately 15 minutes. And, despite the not very impressive picture above, it’s a delicious dish. Yes, You do end up with more or less ‘bare’ pasta with green bits here and there and some cheese on top, but it’s still great. So great, in fact, that I got tired of trying to take a fancy picture of it and ate it.
Dry or semi-dry white wine is recommended – red might come out as too aggressive.