The key to a flavor-packed spaghetti made from pantry ingredients is making the most of the garlic. We mince our garlic to make sure that all of it cooks at the same rate. Toasting the garlic over low heat in 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil ensures that it cooks to a pale golden brown. Any darker and its flavor goes from delicately buttery and sweet to bitter and harsh.
We cook our spaghetti in just 2 quarts of salted water in order to ensure that the pasta cooking liquid is loaded with starch. We reserve a portion of this liquid and add it to the spaghetti along with the oil. The starch helps the oil cling to the pasta and gives the dish a perfect — not greasy — texture. Adding 1/2 teaspoon of raw minced garlic near the end of cooking helps to balance garlic’s dual attributes — the buttery sweetness of toasted garlic and the fire of raw garlic.
Recipe: Garlicky Spaghetti with Capers and Currants
- 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 pound spaghetti
- Salt and pepper
- 3 tablespoons capers, rinsed and minced
- 3 tablespoons currants, minced
- 2 anchovy fillets, rinsed, patted dry, and minced
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 ounce Parmesan, grated (1/2 cup), plus extra for serving
1. Combine 2 tablespoons garlic and oil in an 8-inch nonstick skillet. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic is pale golden brown, 9 to 12 minutes. Off heat, stir in pepper flakes; set aside.
2. Bring 2 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add pasta and 2 teaspoons salt and cook, stirring frequently, until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to pot. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon garlic, capers, currants, anchovies, lemon juice, Parmesan, reserved garlic-oil mixture, and reserved cooking water. Stir until pasta is well coated with oil and no water remains in bottom of pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, passing extra Parmesan separately.
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