Friends all around me are producing babies, and I get so much joy from visiting them! I love seeing their toothless smiles and sleepy eyes. When I am not getting wrapped up in the sweetness of little human beings, I am tending to my own less adorable baby, the lab, and trying to make a dent in the pile of work that accumulated over my vacation (research is a zero-sum game I’m afraid). But at the end of the day, I’m greeted by my favorite big human being and all is well.
Karl and I did not always live together. He once lived with a Sicilian guy who had an aptitude for science and more importantly, amazing cooking skills. His roommate could whip up a delicious meal in the blink of an eye. I can cook a good meal – it just takes me a day or two. Most notably, Karl thought his pasta aglio e olio, or pasta with garlic and oil, was not only phenomenal, but extremely easy to put together. With the attitude of an effervescent high school cheerleader, he raved about this simple dish and asked me several times to make it. I wasn’t completely sold on the idea at first. I have to admit it did not sound substantial enough to be a contestant for dinner.
Since I have been spending long hours at work, I haven’t had much time to prepare dinner, so I recently gave in to pasta aglio e olio and fell madly in love with the dish. It is perfectly simple, but so elegant. Simple flavors and fresh ingredients. In this dish, you can easily taste and isolate every single ingredient that goes into it, which oddly enough, is often hard to do. The fresh basil. The salty Parmigiano-Reggiano (*not* parmesan!). The glutenous pasta. Even the freshly ground black pepper.
To give this dish some protein, I added strips of Italian dry salami. It’s an optional move, and the dish is just as perfect without it. I use farfalle pasta, which is not only gorgeous, but also really fun to eat. The dish can be made on a whim, so you don’t have to forgo having a warm meal when you’re left with little to no energy at the end of the work day!
- ½ pound farfalle pasta
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons chicken broth or reserved pasta water (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup fresh basil, sliced into thin ribbons (about 10-12 basil leaves)
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 10 slices italian dry salami, sliced into thin pieces (optional)
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat, and add ample salt. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally until al dente, about 11 minutes. Reserve two tablespoons of pasta water (optional), then drain the pasta in a colander. Rinse the pasta thoroughly with cold water, then set aside.
- Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, and salt. Stir and cook until the garlic is golden and light brown, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the cooked pasta, the optional chicken broth or pasta water, and freshly ground black pepper. Stir for another minute or two, until the pasta is heated through. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Add more salt, freshly ground black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes if needed. Stir in the basil, cheese, and optional salami, then serve warm.