Aglio e Olio is a pasta dish that has a providence going back to 1837 when it is first mentioned in a rustic Italian cookbook. Which we all know that really means it was probably around the Naples area for a few hundred years before that. As a recipe structure it bears a strong resemblance to the building of Linguine with clam sauce, without clams of course. It is very quick and deceptively simple. If it’s good enough for Al Pacino, it’s good enough for me. It also lends itself to customizing it to your tastes in terms of spice level and how you want to finish the dish.
In general, the flavors of this dish are somewhat mild compared to our Pasta w/ Vodka Sauce we featured recently. The richness of the browned garlic, which infuses the olive oil, and a picante push from the peppers, all surrounding the neutral food canvas that is pasta. The simplicity is why you will see this dish in restaurants all over Italy, not just in the Neopolitan region. The popularity of Aglio e Olio as a dish is pervasive enough that its roots in Naples are often forgotten and it is considered just an Italian classic. We cannot argue with that in the least. No matter the source, this is a dish that embodies so many of the great traits that run throughout Italian cuisine. And it has the added bonus of being quick and very straightforward in cooking technique, making it a dish that any skill level in the kitchen can easily master. Trust us, your family will be asking for this meal, and you will make yourself look good every time you serve it up.
Long Noodles your way
Mentioning Linguine brings up one important characteristic of this dish. The dish itself is both more traditional and the most enjoyable when a long, medium weight noodle is used. Spaghetti is the lightest choice, along with Vermicelli and Linguine which are slightly heavier. These are the best choices for making this dish, although it will work with any noodle shape. We love it for using classic techniques as well, in this case simmering the noodles in the sauce to meld the flavors. Because it is hard to find the fresh Italian red peppers with a little heat that original recipes called for, we go with the more common approach of using crushed red chili flakes.
The customizable aspects of this dish are mainly two. How much pepper heat do you want, and how do you want to garnish the plate. Some will say that chopped Italian parsley is necessary to brighten the dish up somewhat. Others can’t imagine a pasta dish that does not get parmesan on to of it. Classically, this is a four-ingredient dish. Pasta, olive oil, garlic and peppers. We like to finish it with just a little butter, cause you can never go wrong with butter. That also means we will not look askance at you for garnishing your way.
A Memorable Salad Dish
Carrot salad with sundried tomato (pumate) dressing will become a family favorite in no time. The hints of sweetness from the pumate and the carrots balance with the vinegary flavors. This has a fast prep process, but also is a great dish to make in advance and let the flavors meld all together, even mellow out a bit. Regardless, the rich cool sweet tang of this dish makes an excellent contrast to the pasta flavors.
This recipe uses sundried tomatoes packed in oil. You can use the dried ones, similar to a dried apricot, but they need to soak for an hour or so in warm water to soften up enough to blend into a smooth-ish dressing. This meal plan is based on making the salad first then the pasta, with some overlap times as noted.
Aglio e Olio Pasta with Carrot Salad
- ½ Cup Oil packed pumate
- ¼ Cup Red wine vinegar
- 2 Teaspoons Balsamic vinegar
- ½ Teaspoon Kosher salt
- ¼ Teaspoon Black pepper
- ¼ Teaspoon Dried oregano
- 1 Cup Olive oil
- 2 Cups Shredded carrots
- 1 Cup Coarse chopped fresh spinach
- 1 Pound Pasta of choice
- 8-12 Cloves Garlic sliced
- ½ Cup Olive oil
- ½ Teaspoon Red pepper flakes
- 1 Tablespoon Butter
- 2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
- 1 Cup Water from pasta pot
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Optional for garnish
- Shredded parmesan
- Chopped Italian parsley
- Fill a large pot with cold water 2/3 of the way
- Add 2 Tablespoons kosher salt to the water, place on medium heat
- Put ½ cup sun dried tomatoes in blender or food processor
- Pulse until coarsely chopped
- In a measuring cup add ¼ cup red wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, add water to reach ½ cup in volume
- Add fluids, and ½ teaspoon kosher salt, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- Blend until smooth
- Add ½ cup olive oil, pulse until blended
- In a large bowl, toss dressing with 2 cups shredded carrots, 1 cup chopped spinach
- Transfer to a flatter dish and put in the refrigerator
- Turn pasta water to high
- When at a full boil add the pasta and cook two minutes less than the package says for al dente
- While pasta is cooking heat ½ cup olive oil in a very large skillet over medium heat
- Add sliced garlic cloves and cook until golden brown, not dark
- Add ½ teaspoon dried red chili flakes, cook 30 seconds
- If pasta is not finished, remove the skillet form the heat
- When done, drain the pasta, reserving one cup of the cooking water
- Add pasta water to skillet with oil and garlic, place over medium heat
- Add drained pasta to skillet and simmer stirring regularly
- When most of the fluid has cooked away, about two minutes, remove from heat
- Add 1 Tablespoon butter to pasta, stir gently until melted and noodles are coated
- Serve, garnish with parsley and or parmesan if desired
- Stir and serve the salad. Enjoy!