Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Pasta Aglio Olio (Italian & Greek Versions)

I grew up with the Sicilian version of this dish, and it has remained one of my favorite, quick-fix as well as dinner party staples for years! Aglio Olio translates into "Garlic and Oil", which is the base of this sauce. I recently moved to a mostly Greek neighborhood, which inspired my recent creation of the spinach-feta version.

There's lots of fresh garlic in this dish - great for the immune system, and a powerhouse of flavor. The chewiness of whole wheat pasta (penne or rotelli) stands up beautifully to the pungent flavors of the Greek version, which is what you see in the photos. Spaghetti (non-whole wheat) is the classic shape for the Sicilian version, and looks so pretty flecked with the bright green parsley. My mouth is watering just typing!

Sicilian Aglio Olio

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 (2-ounce) tin anchovy fillets
6 to 8 large cloves garlic, crushed & minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 handfuls of flat leaf parsley, chopped fine
Coarse salt
1 pound pasta (any shape), cooked to al dente
Good parmesean cheese, grated

Greek Style Aglio Olio
(aka Pasta alla Diana Cazadora!):

Same ingredients as above except add:
2 extra Tbs. olive oil to the 1/4 cup oil
5 ounces (1/2 a small box) frozen, chopped spinach - thawed and squeeeezed dry
Subsitute the parmesean with 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
The juice of 1 lemon


1. Chop, prep and set all ingredients near the stove so it is at your fingertips.

2. Boil pasta according to package directions to al dente--slightly chewy (not too soggy).

3. While pasta cooks, prepare the sauce:

In a large, non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat (very important so the garlic does not burn, otherwise it will taste bitter and you will want to feed it to the cat.)
Add garlic, anchovies and red pepper. Stir with a wooden spoon, pressing the anchovies till they break up and melt away into the oil.
*If making the Greek version, now is when you add the spinach. Sautee for just a minute or two.

5. Add the drained pasta to the skillet and toss gently to combine. Add half the parsley (and the feta, plus juice of 1 lemon, if making Greek version).

6. Spoon into pasta bowls or onto plates, sprinkle with remaining parsley. For Sicilian version, sprinkle very liberally with parmesean cheese.

I like to top both versions with some spicy sauteed jumbo shrimp, serve with crusty Italian bread (some bakeries make Whole Wheat Italian loaves now!), and a nice dry Pinot Noir or Pinot Grigio. As a side dish, the simple, mellow sweetness of roasted beets or winter squash pair nicely with the spicy, garlicky goodness of the pasta.



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