Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pasta with Garlic and Olive Oil (Spaghetti Aglio e Olio)

A filling dinner in 10 minutes for 25 cents/serving!

I have made two versions of Spaghetti Aglio e Olio.  Both are delicious, super-cheap, and very filling.

The first version is the one we served last night, by Lidia Bastianich.  She was kind enough to post it on her Facebook Fan Page a few weeks ago.  This recipe follows below.

The second version is by another PBS chef, Mary Ann Esposito (another specialist in rustic Italian cooking).  I own her book Ciao Italia in Umbria, and later this month I shall attempt its recipe for Mezzalune (Almond Crescent Cookies).  Tragically, I have lost my copy of her version of Spagetti Aglio e Olio, but I hope it is coming in the copy of Ciao Italia! I just ordered.  As soon as I am reumited with Mary Ann's version, I will be sure to share it!  UPDATE: I found a link to Mary Ann's version of the recipe here.

The primary difference between these versions is the amount of garlic used. 

I never thought I would say this, but Lidia's version almost has too much garlic!  It may be that I used especially strong garlic, but it was a lot to handle.  You can try this version as-is, or reduce the garlic by about 25-50%.

Spaghettini with Garlic and Olive Oil
Serves 6 as a main dish, or 8 as a side dish
Time to prepare: 10 minutes

$0.25 per serving: Vegan (omit cheese)
$0.50 per serving: Vegetarian (include cheese)
$2.00 per serving: gluten-free (make the sauce as described below, saute chicken breast in the sauce then serve over polenta)

  • Salt

  • 1 pound spaghettini or vermicelli* (nothing thicker than spaghetti)

  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 10 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

  • 1/2 teaspoon (or more to taste) crushed red pepper

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley (MUST be fresh)

  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or Pecorino Romano (optional)

  • Gluten-free only: one pound boneless chicken breast and cooked polenta
*Spaghettini is very similar to vermicelli, and both are somewhere between cappellini and spaghetti when it comes to thickness. Because they cook quickly, it’s best to remove them from the boiling water when they are still undercooked, and to let them finish cooking in the sauce. Lidia finds this pasta very delicate but zesty and wouldn’t serve it with cheese. But if you love cheese in your pasta, have it.

Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat. Stir the spaghettini into the boiling water. Return to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until tender, but still very firm, about 6 minutes.  Gluten-free: start cooking polenta instead.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, shaking the skillet and stirring, until pale golden, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper.

Ladle about 1 ½ cups of the pasta cooking water into the sauce (gluten-free: add 3/4 cup hot tap water instead). Add the parsley, the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and salt to taste.

Gluten-free: skip to alternate last step, below.

If the skillet is large enough to accommodate the sauce and pasta, fish the pasta out of the boiling water with a large wire skimmer and drop it directly into the sauce in the skillet. If not, drain the pasta, return it to the pot and pour in the sauce. Bring the sauce and pasta to a simmer, tossing to coat with sauce. Cook until the pasta is coated with the sauce and done, about 1 minute. Remove the pot from the heat and toss in the grated cheese, if using. Check the seasoning, adding salt and crushed red pepper if necessary. Serve immediately in warm bowls.

Gluten-free last step: Cut the boneless, skinless chicken breast into 1-inch cubes.  Add to the sauce, and saute over medium heat until fully cooked.  Serve the chicken over polenta and serve imemdiately.

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