Sunday, June 6, 2010
You had me at Aglio Olio
My friend Premah asked me a couple of days ago if I had a recipe for Pasta Aglio e Olio. Unfortunately, I didn't, although the Angel Hair pasta with garlic and breadcrumbs I often make is a variation of the classic Aglio e Olio. Well, it's been two days and I haven't been able to get Aglio Olio out of my mind. Not that I was particularly craving for it, but I was itchy to try and make it. It isn't complicated and it's essentially vegetarian; vegan even as it doesn't have cheese.
Aglio Olio has neither a tomato base nor a creamy base. It's a simple, straightforward, rustic pasta dish but that really doesn't mean it's a no brainer.
Aglio Olio is Italian for garlic and oil. And that's basically what it takes to make this dish what it is. Parsley is also an essential ingredient as is chilli flakes or dried chillies while seasoning is salt and pepper.
Linguini is supposed to be the original pasta of choice for Aglio e Olio but I had angel hair so I didn't have the luxury of choice.
Cooking the pasta: I decided to cook the pasta in vegetable stock to add flavour. At the World Gourmet Summit I attended in Singapaore a month or so ago, I attended a cooking masterclass by Italian Chef Andrea Berton who cooked his pasta in stock to wonderful results. So I decided to follow suit. It was a great tip as the pasta soaks up the stock well. I would think a thicker noodle would perhaps be better but I made do with what I had. As usual, cook in al dente.
In a skillet, heat about 4 tbsp of olive oil and add the garlic (8 cloves, squished and minced) and chilli flakes (2 tsp) and 2 tsp chopped flat leaf parsley (opt for the Italian flat leaf parsley as it's more flavourful). Toss the ingredients around and make sure you don't let the garlic burn.
When it's all toasty and fragrant add the cooked pasta. You can add the pasta straight from the saucepan or stockpot you boiled it in so that it's still moist. Also add 3-4 tbsp of the stock in with the pasta. Season with salt and black pepper. Toss the pasta so it's coated with the olive oil, garlic, chilli, parsley and the seasoning.
Cook on low heat for a few minutes, adding a little more parsley. The pasta will be a little wet, but it should never be soupy.
Remove and serve.
Now, this is the basic Aglio e Olio and you will find variations like adding seafood like prawns or mussels, tomatoes and sometimes even minced meat. I tried it with some sauteed mushrooms -- it tasted good but honestly, I preferred it plain with no frills.