It's 6:00 pm on a Wednesday and there's nothing to make for dinner! This may sound alarming for some, or perhaps may just be a warning to the lacklustre meal that is surely ahead, but to me it means that I'm in store for a delicious and satisfying dinner that will take minimal effort, and leave me with a full belly, leftovers for lunch, a smile on my face, and olive oil running down my chin. I'm talking about the beauty in the simplicity of Aglio E Olio, which translates to "garlic and oil" referring to the Italian quickie-meal, pasta (generally spaghetti) with garlic and olive oil.
For something so incredibly simple, it's amazing how much of an impression this dish can make. My boyfriend, Chris, and his friends for one, adore this dish with such passion that I don't think there has been a gathering where the suggestion of making it hasn't come up. I've lost count of the number of times they have disputed who makes the best aglio e olio, or what little detail makes their aglio e olio stand out, because with a dish this straightforward it really is all in the details!
Despite everyone thinking that their aglio e olio is the best, I have to give the top award to my dear lovely Ina Garten, because well, Ina knows best! When Chris first came across this recipe we were skeptical whether the method made any sense. It seemed incredibly strange to firstly, begin the whole process by cooking the pasta, secondly, to cook the garlic in so much pasta water (1 1/2 cups!). We were imagining noodles drowning in bland garlic water. How dare I distrust my dear future-best-friend, Ina! I should have known that Ina always knows best! Of course Ina's take on aglio e olio was absolutely fantastic, and quickly became my boyfriend and I's go-to dinner! The addition of the pasta water, reduced to enhance the flavour of the garlic, prevented us from feeling like we had to douse our pasta in cups of olive oil to impart flavour, as well as helping the olive oil and garlic sauce to stick to the noodles, thanks to the starch in the cooking water.
Although Ina's recipe is great on it's own, I would suggest rendering down some pancetta or better yet, sopressata, at the beginning of cooking. Set meat aside after cooking and toss it in again at the end of cooking to reheat. That spicy, salty bite does wonders for this dish! Another great tip is to make some homemade garlic breadcrumbs to garnish the pasta to give a little bit of crunch to each bite.
Check out Ina's recipe for Aglio E Olio here!Listening To:
Caribou - Dive