Tag Archives: aglio

A Summer Take on Italy Most Classic Garlic Dish

Aglio, Olio and Pommodorini

Aglio, olio e pepperoncino (garlic, olive oil and hot pepper) is one of the most sincere and dangerous pasta dishes. Dangerous because so many people shy away from garlic and even I shy away from the hottest of the hot stuff. But also perilous because in its simplicity to make and to devour, a plate of spaghetti doused with these two ingredients lightly simmered in olive oil can tempt more than more complex and expensive pastas.

Simmering Aglio Olio and Pepperoncino

I’m always hesitant to mess with near perfection, but in the summer there’s always another ingredient laying there, calling to you. The heat makes risk taking just that much easier.

Slow-baked tomatoes ready to jump

My friend Fabrizio C was playing with fire a few days ago (and only our tongues got slightly singed). Piccadilly and datterini tomatoes had come into their own on the Abruzzo coast when he invited a dozen friends over to his terrace for dinner. His twist was adding slow-baking breaded piccadilly cherry tomatoes (to dry them out a bit) at the end off the garlic, hot pepper and oil process.

Mixing it up

Slowly baking (about 45 minutes) and breading tomatoes dried them out while keeping just the right amount of juice and sweetness in to keep them slightly chewy but not as much as the al dente durum wheat pasta in which they were hiding.

Friends, tomatos and pepperoncino

This being summer we followed up with local vegetables – roast sweet peppers and above all some of the last great fresh fava beans of the Summer (to be eaten right out of the pod and accompanied by good pecorino cheese) as we washed it all down with some of this years Pecorino white and rich Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo rosè wines from the valleys between Pescara and Sulmona. The wine kept our conversation and appetite for summer dinners growing well into the night.

Friends, tomatos and pepperoncino

For those of you reading this on Facebook or elsewhere, it was first published on carbonara.wordpress.com


Aglio, olio and pomodorini

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Want to try making aglio olio and peperoncino and don’t want to look for it on the web? My first and favourite guide is “The Classic Italian Cook Book: The Art of Italian Cooking and the Italian Art of Eating” by Marcella Hazan. My hitchiker’s guide to Italian food.

Roast peppers

Also my friend Eleonor’s blog http://www.aglioolioepeperoncino.com/ is inspired.

Garlic on FoodistaGarlic

Soggy Noodles?

My daughter likes her breakfast cereal soggy. I think that’s gross and hope her tastes will change as she grows up; thankfully she already is food-curious for an eleven year old. Breakfast cereals are slowly becoming popular here after years of marketing by multinationals, which can even be a good thing – corn flakes are not evil. Breakfast cereals are part of our half-american household but we still usually go for dipping Italian breakfast cookies in warm milk, colored with chocolate or espresso shots according to the age of who’s dunking. But most of us would rather our cornflakes are still crunchy when we eat it. It’s the same with pasta. Think about it. It’s just more pleasurable to have something to bite into than something squishy that falls apart under your tongue. It’s called “al dente” – literally “to the tooth” because your teeth still have to deal with eating it – but Ricciolidoro (Goldilocks) would have called it “just right”. How do you tell when Ricciolidoro will finish her whole plate? Folk legend has it that you throw a strand of spaghetti on a vertical wooden cupboard and when it starts to stick it’s ready. I have tried this so you don’t have to at home. First, it has to be a simple wood surface, or it will just slide off anyway. Second, it’s really quite disgusting. When was the cupboard last cleaned? How much pasta material will stay up there and for how long? And trust the insights of the rocket scientist who tested the theory (me) that the taste of wood finish and traces of cleaning liquids and wax were not enjoyable when I was 19, and there’s no way I’m going to verify if they have gotten any better today. I mean, who dreamt that up? Gross. Basically the pasta is al dente the minute the center is cooked, and the exterior is just becoming soft enough to make the sauce stick but not so soft that it absorbs the sauce. You can actually see this moment happen. As your spaghetti boils try taking a piece out and biting into it a few minutes before the cooking time indicated on the package and look at the subtle color difference like you would count the rings of a wooden stump to identify the age of a tree. When the inside yellow disappears, it should be ready. I prefer it a bit rawer, when there’s still a pinprick sized darker core. If you’ve been eating soggy spaghetti for most of you life, try eating it the hard way.


Why Dracula can’t cook

Garlic, like anchovies and raw onions, gets a bad rap. Just because it’s smelly or fishy or salty and stays on your breath doesn’t mean it’s not scrumptious.
Peanut butter eaters shouldn’t throw stones.
Even here in Italy, a land famous for garlic and anchovy eating, these wonderful foods have their detractors. I think the detractors are clueless.
Forget about the proven health benefits of garlic for the heart and the immune system. They are part of why garlic is good, but only a small part. It’s because they are heaven.
My first garlic epiphany is still a fond memory today. My mother had just ordered a plate of baked garlic cloves with our hamburgers and steak sandwiches in a basement bar in what little was left of the Italian-Irish neighborhood in Madison, Wisconsin.
I loved it.
And the bad breath? It’s only bad if you don’t like it (poor unknowing fools) and have not also eaten garlic in the same meal. The important thing is that you eat garlic together, then none of those involved will care.
I still remember a meal I cooked for my friends Erin and Bill when I first came back to Madison from Bologna in 1990. Oven-toasted rosemary potatoes, grilled sirloin with oregano and black pepper, and truffled champignon mushrooms.
Truffled mushrooms are as simple as it magical. Clean, dry and slice the mushrooms and get them ready. It’s going to be fast. Peel and crush a few cloves of garlic and get them ready. Get some good Italian olive oil up to frying temperature. Throw the garlic and turn the heat down low just before the garlic fragments turn crunchy and golden. Then slide the mushrooms and cook until they are soft, grey and have absorbed the garlic and the oil.
I like them straight up as a side dish, but they are great as an appetizer on toasted bread (with or without melted provolone cheese).
What made the dinner with Erin and Bill so memorable? The moment I tossed in the garlic in the yellow tuscan oil (yes, even back then you could find it in Madison) a mushroom cloud of garlic steam burst up and filled the studio apartment. I looked back and saw them both, noses up in the air and huge silly grins like dancing Peanuts characters in It’s a Charlie Brown Christmas.
They say blood is thicker than water, but garlic bonds.
To all my garlic brothers and sisters.


Rosemarino in the garden.