Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Unless of course the Vampire happens to be Angel or Spike... but only season 6-onward Spike.

Um, what?

Tonight is Parent-Teacher conferences, so Mike probably won't get home before 9PM. On nights like this, I make a fabulous and super-fast dinner: Fettuccine Aglio e Olio, which just means Garlic & Oil. Not only is it delicious and fast-cooking, but it will ward off BOTH vampires and colds. (Fact - garlic is very good for the immune system. Next time you're feeling a cold come on, use it as an excuse to eat this or an entire loaf of garlic bread :)

3 garlic cloves
red pepper flakes
anchovy paste
*dried oregano
**parmigiano or romano cheese, grated
toasted pine nuts
you do not need any salt because of the anchovy and cheese

*Most recipes call for parsley, but as I really dislike parsley, I swap for dried oregano.

**I know you're not supposed to put cheese with seafood, but I do not consider anchovy paste that has melted into oil as still being legitimate seafood...

So the easy rundown of MY version of this dish:
Set your water to boil, and heavily salt it before dropping your pasta.

The sauce:
Heat some evoo on medium low (I have never measured this out... depending on how much you are making you want just enough to coat all the noodles in the end. Maybe 1/4 cup for 2 people? Eyeball it.) and squirt about an inch to an inch and a half long line of *Anchovy Paste.

*No really, you should have a tube of this in your crisper drawer, as well as a tube of tomato paste. They will help to enrich lots of sauces you make, without having annoying jars or cans of the stuff that you can't use up all at once. Very useful.
Also, if you think you don't like anchovies, you're wrong. (Unless you have an allergy. Then you're right.) Even I won't eat an anchovy straight, but when it simmers in oil it has only the faintest fishy note and mostly just a nutty depth of flavor. Trust me and try it. Even Mike likes this dish, anchovy paste and all.

That was a very long side note...

Continuing the sauce, you then drop a pinch or two of red pepper flakes into the oil to simmer while the anchovy paste heats up.
Then, you want to use your finest-gauge Microplane and grate about 3 cloves of garlic into a fine paste. Once the anchovy paste has melted into your evoo, add the garlic and stir until it is well incorporated.
It is very important that you do not rush this sauce, and keep it on a very very low setting. Otherwise your garlic will brown and start to turn bitter, and then the whole sauce is ruined. But since fettuccine only takes 8 minutes to cook, if you start the anchovy paste right when you salt and drop the pasta, it should all work out fine.

Once the garlic is stirred in and on a slow simmer, I toss about a tablespoon or so of dried oregano in, because I feel like there needs to be an herb in here somewhere.
When your pasta is about 2 minutes from done, I ladle about 1/4 cup of the pasta water into the sauce as well and let that incorporate.
Take your fettuccine directly from the boiling water and put it in the pan with your garlic & oil to let it coat completely. Then toss in a handful or two of whichever grated cheese you have on hand and toss to combine. Finally, I throw in some toasted pine nuts (which I keep ready to go in the fridge in a mini tupperware) just to add another texture and layer of flavor.

Divide into bowls, top with another pinch of grated cheese, and devour while hot. If you're a parsley person, then this would be the time you to garnish with chopped fresh parsley. But as I have never understood why anyone would want to use an herb that tastes like grass, I simply omit it from any recipe that calls for it. I would not, however, substitute fresh basil, because that has a distinctly different and strong flavor, and is not really the point of this meal. Dried oregano is much more mellow a choice for substitution.
This dinner should only take you 15 minutes, start to finish, and is really just an excuse to eat a ton of garlic in one sitting. And you can grate the garlic cloves while you're waiting for the water to come up to a boil so you're ready to drop it in the oil at the right time. It's very tasty and very satisfying.

Just don't make it right before going out for a night of karaoke. Not only will no one want to talk to you, but you will make the microphone reek, which is just bad karaoke etiquette.


Drew said...

Cannot stress how much I agree with the anchovy paste. It is the ultimate secret ingredient (as long as people can eat fish): used sparingly, it adds a rich depth to flavors without corrupting them or even necessarily changing them much at all. Great in some sorts of soups too, though because it can be salty, a little less salt is needed.

Anonymous said...

Ah! Now this is totally different than my sardines and spaghetti. Here, the anchovy paste is a background flavor (much like the use of fish sauce in Asian stir fry) You taste it, but it is subtle and muted by the garlic and red pepper flakes. By all means,serve this with grated cheese!

Lily Ruth's Mama said...

I also loathe parsley, and people always act like I'm crazy when I say that. I especially have to remember to say 'absolutely no parsley garnish' when we eat out someplace new... even though the chopped parsley garnish is SO 2000-late... or I inevitably get huge honking handfuls of it on top of my dinner. um, I really hate parsley - apparently it makes me rant. sorry.

Erin said...

I had no idea anchovy paste existed. You totally blew my mind.

Melissa's Espresso Shot said...

I think that side note was meant for me. I thought "ew, anchovy paste?" then I read the side note and had second thoughts.

Joanna Hennessy said...

Thank you for the side note - it's like you are taking on the patient tone of the teacher when you do that.
I feel like I'm the one who's learning to cook at her grandmother's knee by reading your blog!
I need help w/ procuring the right tools! What kind of pan did you use? Where do you find a microplane grater - and is it a gadget which will prevent you from grating your knuckles when grating something as small as a gralic clove?

RocknRollGourmet said...

I'm using an All-Clad skillet with vertical sides (as opposed to sloping) because it's what I have. Most of my pans are All-Clad. Very reliable and life-time guarantee.

Microplane graters are available from Amazon.com, Crate & Barrel, Williams-Sonoma, etc. Usually running $10-12.
My basic rule with them is that I am not allowed to use one if I've had more than one glass of wine, because if so I WILL lose a chunk of fingernail, if not flesh. You just have to actually watch what you're doing for 30 seconds without distraction and you'll be fine. Also, don't worry about grating right down to the nub of a garlic clove. Stop when you get nervous.