“Show me someone who can make a great dish with just a few ingredients and that’s a great cook.” Chef Ricco Deluca
Agolio Et Olio
This recipe comes from my good friend Chef Ricco and is part of a new series for me. Not only is there a recipe, but there are a bunch of questions and answers about the recipe and the techniques used to make it. Let me know what you think of this idea and if you would like to see more of it. Thanks, RG
Questions I had before making this recipe:
RG: Some cookbooks suggest 1 pound of pasta for 4 people. When you serve pasta in your restaurant, how much do you serve per individual?
Chef Ricco: When I say one pound pasta for 6 people, I hope you will give them more than just pasta, how about a salad and a vegetable or better yet how about two vegetables on the plate. In the restaurant, I get 5 to 6 orders out of a pound.
RG: Most cookbooks I’ve read say not to brown the garlic because it makes the sauce bitter. Why brown the garlic?
Chef Ricco: Yes, many think that browning garlic is the same as letting it burn. Not true. The browning of the garlic gives it the aroma of toasted nuts and a very caustic taste. That is the reason for keeping the garlic whole…for that toasted nut flavor.
RG: Why can’t you just mash the garlic with your fork in the pan? Why remove it first?
Chef Ricco: You take the garlic out of the pan because you don’t want to continue cooking….just release the oils. When I make this dish, I don’t remove it, but I’ve made the dish hundreds of times and you can’t work as fast as me yet.
RG: Can you substitute pepper flakes for the dry hot chili pepper?
Chef Ricco: Dry chili pepper and what you call pepper flakes are the same.
RG: If you don’t have fresh flat leaf parsley, can you use curly leaf parsley? What about dried parsley?
Chef Ricco: Flat leaf parsley which is also called Italian parsley is best but you can substitute curly leaf parsley although there’s not as much flavor as flat leaf. Don’t use dry parsley….there is no flavor.
RG: Why “no cheese please”?
Chef Ricco : There are a few pasta dishes Italians don’t put cheese on and this is one of them. You really want to taste garlic and olive oil. Besides my father would turn in his grave if I gave you this recipe and it included cheese.
Questions & Comments I had after making this recipe:
RG: Ricco, I made this last night and loved it. The flavors were so strong and prominent the house is still filled with the smell of cooked garlic this morning. My wife was not as thrilled as I was. She thought the flavor was a little too strong for her taste. To me, it was nothing but simple and intense flavor. I had three bowls of it. I thought 1 cup of oil was a little too much. There seemed to be a lot of oil left at the bottom of the pan after I tossed it well. Any ideas?
Chef Ricco: Here are a couple of tips. As you know, oil and water don’t mix. When you drain the pasta, keep it in the colander until it’s completely dry so when you put it in the oil, the pasta will absorb the oil like a sponge. You could also whip 2 egg whites to a froth and toss it in at the end. The egg whites will make the oil coagulate with the pasta. If you like less oil, try ¾ cup.
RG: When I put the garlic back I the pan, it started to cook very quickly. In fact it started to burn. Is this what should happen or was the oil too hot?
Chef Ricco: The browned garlic should still be at a raw state. All you are doing is infusing the oil with garlic oil. Because you can’t work as fast as I do, you may want to try turning down the heat a little.
RG: When I added the parsley, it crisped instantly. It sounded as though it was cracking. It seemed a little burnt.
Chef Ricco: I want the parsley to make that cracking sound, that’s the moisture coming out. You don’t want it to burn so again you might want to reduce the heat.
RG: Would you use this technique with other pasta dishes?
Chef Ricco: This technique works wonders with all oil base sauces, the only thing I would do differently is tone down the garlic if I’m adding additional ingredients. This is the way I usually prepare it in the restaurant. However, if I’m in the weeds, I may cheat by chopping the garlic to hurry up the cooking process. Not too often though.
RG: How can I tone down the strong garlic flavor so my wife can enjoy this simple and incredible recipe?
Chef Ricco: There are a few ways to tone it down. You can just use 3 cloves of garlic or brown all 4 cloves to infuse the oil and only mash and return 2 of them. You could then use the remaining 2 to your own dish.
RG: How long does it take the garlic to brown?
Chef Ricco: Depends on the temperature of the oil, but ideally you want the garlic in the hot oil for a least 3 to 4 minutes and the golden brown color of a walnut.
I hope you try this recipe and enjoy it as much as I do. Be careful when you add the parsley to the hot oil, it really splatters.