Pasta with Olive Oil, Roasted Garlic, and Parmigiana Reggiano

This is a master recipe for cooking almost any kind of dried pasta. It may be served as is, or the pasta may be used with a variety of sauces (tomato, pesto, anchovy paste, tapenade, and so forth) or quick sautés (shitake mushrooms, shrimp, scallops). The quantities here are enough for two persons of moderate appetite.

This recipe provides three to four portions.

Ingredients

150 grams (5 oz) dried pasta

4 litres (16 cups) water

45 ml (3 tablespoons) coarse salt

30 ml (2 tablespoons) olive oil

2 to 6 cloves of roasted, crushed garlic

15 to 30 ml (1 to 2 tablespoons) of vegetable stock or white wine

30 ml (2 tablespoons) Parmigiano Reggiano

60 ml (4 tablespoons) chopped Italian (flat leafed) parsley

freshly ground black pepper

zest of 1/2 lemon (optional)

fleur de sel

more Parmigiano Reggiano

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Equipment

Large pasta pot with integrated colander (not only does this cook the pasta better, the pot is much safer because there is no need to carry a pot of boiling water to the sink for draining)

Large plate next to stove on which to rest the colander containing the pasta when it is cooked

Long kitchen tongs

Accurate kitchen timer

Hot soup plates or pasta bowls

Technique

Bring water to a vigorous, rolling boil.

Add salt.

Add pasta (use a good quality commercial dried pasta such as De Cecco); for this master recipe, we recommend De Cecco linguine piccole, size 8.

Cook the pasta for exactly seven minutes (disregard timing instructions on the box).

Drain the pasta using the colander and bowl to capture enough of the cooking water to keep the pasta hot and moist. This also gives the pasta a final minute or two of cooking to bring it to the perfect al dente stage. Dress the pasta with a few drops of the best olive oil you have.

Return the empty pot to the stove.

On medium heat, add the olive oil and crushed garlic. (At this point you can add anything you like so long as it will cook very quickly - e.g. finely sliced shitake mushrooms.)

As soon as the oil and garlic are hot (sizzling but not smoking) add the pasta and whatever water clings to its strands.

Swirl with the tongs. Add the parmesan and the parsley - and the lemon zest if desired.

Continue to swirl, adding just enough vegetable stock and white wine to provide a very light sauce - no more than a coating - for the pasta.

Serve immediately in hot pasta (or soup) bowls.

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Serving Suggestions

Fleur de sel, ground black pepper, and Parmigiano Reggiano should be on the table.

You could add a small bowl of pitted, chopped black olives.

A small green salad of Boston lettuce goes well with this type of dish.

For the hungry, provide a plate of proscuitto or smoked salmon.

Or the pasta could be dressed with a simple tomato or pesto sauce.