"There are five elements—earth, air, fire, water and garlic." ~ Louis Diat
I should advise you up front that my version of this simple pasta dish is for garlic lovers only. Not all people are as fond of garlic as I am. I made this painful discovery during my catering days which, thankfully—are way, way behind me in the rear-view mirror of my life. For example, my former acquantaince Kirk Douglas, my ex-husband and many other people that I know, do not enjoy garlic at all, and therefore, do not eat it—ever. I, on the other hand, must have had a previous life in Southern Italy and can't seem to get enough of this powerful aromatic culinary herb. For more of my musings on the health benefits of garlic and another great garlicky recipe click here.
I learned to make this garlic extravaganza after having had a similar dish for the first time in an Italian restaurant in Solvang, California more than 20 years ago. The restaurant, now defunct, was called Paoli's—and the owner, Carlo, was a middle-aged blond man with the accent of an East Coast mafioso. Carlo was dating the local newspaper heiress at the time. I still remember that he boldly marked one of the parking spaces in front of the restaurant with her name stenciled in bold black letters across the concrete tire barrier—proclaiming it to be reserved for her exclusive use. A rather cheesy yet grandiose romantic gesture that impressed and horrified me at the same time. Carlo's pasta recipe wasn't exacty like my present day dish—it was a classic Aglio E Olio, but his recipe did serve to push me into thinking quite differently about garlic.
When we girls were growing up, my recollections are that in our family, we were very conservative consumers of garlic in those days. I remember the garlic additions to our family menu were usually in a dry form, and the dehydrated garlic was accompanied by a liberal dose of MSG contained in the seasoning mix. So it was that on a fateful afternoon in 1992, in the dimly lit interior of Paoli's, I discovered fresh garlic used with reckless abandon in a dish could make it a revelation—something that sets fire to your soul. Now, many years down the road, garlic and I are longtime lovers.
I only make this pasta dish in the summer, just like my Eggplant Parmigiano, when the tomatoes are really juicy and ripe—fresh out of a sun-drenched field. I purchase them from Whole Foods Market or at my local farmer's market. I still enjoy the vivid memory of the first time that I tasted the pungent garlic pasta on that fateful afternoon in the Santa Ynez Valley—so long ago now. At the time it was a revelation to my senses, and it remains so—Linda and garlic—until death do us part.
Summer Pasta with Garlic, Fresh Tomatoes, Parsley, Basil and Olive Oil
5-6 fresh and ripe Roma or San Marzano tomatoes
7-8 cloves fresh garlic, minced and infused in olive oil *
1/2 cup fresh chopped Italian parsley
1/2 cup small loose basil leaves
good quality olive oil
fresh cracked black pepper
red chile flakes (optional)
fresh grated Reggiano-Parmigiano
1 pound gluten-free pasta—I prefer rice spaghetti since I am gluten-free
2 Tbsps sea salt for pasta water
1 cup of the cooked pasta water
|Mise en place for my Summer Pasta.
Prep all ingredients as described and set aside:
1. Peel garlic (really fresh garlic must be used for this dish) mince in food processor or by hand. Mix liberally with olive oil and place in a jar with a lid.
2. Chop fresh tomatoes into cubes
3. Wash and dry Italian parsley leaves. Cut leaves away from the stems. Chop into desired consistency. Not too fine.
4. Wash basil leaves and dry
5. Heat a large pot with pasta water
This dish comes together quickly. Have your mise en place ready so that you can assemble very rapidly once you are ready with the hot pasta.
1. Bring pasta water to a boil. When boiling add dry pasta and 2 tbsps. of sea salt to the water. Stir until salt is incorporated and water returns to a boil.
2. When pasta is done, save one cup of the water from the cooked pasta.
3. Drain pasta in a colander, but not well
4. Dump watery pasta back into the hot pan that cooked the pasta.
5. Stir in a large scoop of garlic, and mix into pasta with tongs or a large spoon
6. Add chopped tomatoes and any juice that accumulated while they were sitting
7. Drizzle with good quality olive oil and stir. Add a little pasta water if the pasta needs to be lightened.
8. Add a handful of chopped parsley and stir. Reserving some for adding to the top.
9. Rough chop basil leaves right before they go into the pasta mixture.
10. Add salt and black pepper to taste and a pinch of chile flakes if desired (although the garlic adds plenty of heat on its own).
11. If the pasta is sticky at some of the hot pasta water to loosen the consistency.
12. Plate the pasta making sure to scoop up plenty of the tomato cubes that fall to the sides and bottom.
13. Garnish with grated Parmigiano and parsley and serve immediately.
* I like to have fresh minced garlic at the ready for a busy work day week. It makes cooking during the week nights much less frenzied. Old garlic—or pre-minced garlic from your grocery store is gross. I am sorry to be that blunt, but it is the truth. A quick trick for prepping fresh garlic ahead for the week easily follows:
1.You will need two stainless bowls with rim that are the same size.
2. Place the cloves of garlic that have been cut on the top and bottom in one of the bowls. Cover the bowl with the garlic in it with the other bowl so that the rims are placed together. Grasp the edges and shake the garlic cloves within vigorously. Shake for about 30 seconds and voilà—most of the peels will have fallen off of the garlic cloves. Those that remain will be easy to remove.
Next—drop the peeled cloves of garlic into your food processor, fitted with the steel knife. This will mince the garlic cloves. They will be done when all the garlic is stuck to the sides of the bowl. Take a rubber spatula and scrape all of the garlic into a small jar (I save my wide mouth Celtic sea salt jars and reuse them for purposes such as this).
Top the garlic with a good quality olive oil (as pictured below). Stir to incorporate all of the minced garlic. It can sit out on the counter until the end of the evening. This will allow the garlic to mellow and infuse into the oil. When you are finished preparing the Summer Pasta, simply place lid on the jar and refrigerate. This is an important step because in rare circumstances, garlic and oil can grow botulism.
The minced garlic in oil is good for a week and is ready in a snap for the next week's meal preparation. Taking Care of Business in a Flash—as Elvis and Michelle would say.