Often when I come back from the greenmarket with a bundle of vegetables, I turn to Alice Waters. Whether it's Chez Panisse Vegetables or The Art of Simple Food, her cooking is so ingredient-driven that it's the perfect solution when you've got something gorgeous but don't know what to do with it. In this case, three bulbs of green garlic (which is just regular garlic earlier in the season, picked when it has a milder flavor and the skins of the cloves have yet to harden) were on my table.
Why I Picked This Recipe: Spaghetti with oil and garlic has always been a favorite pasta dish of mine. Its simplicity entrances me. Taking a cue from Waters' recipe in The Art of Simple Food, I replaced her regular garlic with green garlic, but otherwise followed the recipe closely: a simple combination of the cloves with a tiny bit of minced parsley and a pinch of red pepper flakes, cooked with plenty of good olive oil.
What Worked: To cook the garlic, I followed instructions from another Alice Waters recipe, which begins it in a pan with both olive oil and water. This helped to soften up the cloves and almost melt them into a mild, garlicky base. My kitchen smelled incredible and I knew good things were on the way. Because green garlic is milder, you can use far more of it, which filled out this dish considerably. They key is to cook it down until it's very soft.
What Didn't: This is one of those recipes that's so simple, not much could go wrong.
Suggested Tweaks: Though I love the resolute simplicity of this dish (there's not even Parmesan), some might want more flavor in the base. Waters has a few suggestions: adding anchovies or olives, using more herbs, or even some cherry tomatoes. I also suggest finishing it with fresh, fruity olive oil at the end.
Adapted from The Art of Simple Food.
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 heads green garlic (or 4 cloves regular garlic), thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- small pinch of red pepper flakes
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and add the spaghetti. Cook until al dente, reserving 1 cup of pasta cooking water before draining.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large (3-quart) saucepan over medium heat until shimming. Add the garlic, parsley, red pepper flakes, and 1/4 cup of water. Cover and sweat, stirring occasionally, until soft, adding more water if necessary to keep the garlic from caramelizing too much.
Add the cooked pasta to the garlic mixture and toss well to combine. Add some pasta cooking water if necessary to bring the dish to a creamy consistency. Serve with more olive oil and the minced tops of the green garlic, if desired.