real life test kitchen: one-pan pasta with garlic and oil

There’s a pasta dish I cook so often, that is so simple, I don’t even consider it a recipe. I saute some finely chopped garlic in a bit of olive oil, toss in some al dente spaghetti, finish it up with some grated cheese and red pepper flakes, and voila! My favorite comfort food. In last week’s Dining In section in The New York Times, there was a recipe that turned my pasta techniques upside down: One-Pan Pasta with Garlic and Oil. It was a part of the story Do You Need All That Oil To Boil Pasta? The idea behind it is that you can save energy by not using so much water to cook pasta, and not bringing the water to a boil before adding the pasta. I know! Sounds crazy, right? But there’s a wonderful side effect from this concept: You create amazingly starchy, flavorful pasta water that can be used to make yummy sauce.

For this recipe, first you cook some garlic in a tiny bit of olive oil in a large pan. Remove the garlic once golden, and then stir in eight cups of cold water, and add in the pasta and two teaspoons of salt. Bring it to a boil, stirring constantly. One small problem I found: the stiff pasta that poked out of the water got a little burned on the edge of the pan. Just a tiny bit, because it softened quickly and then it was all submerged. Once the pasta is cooked, you pour the cooking water off into a bowl and set aside. To the pan with the pasta, add in the cooked garlic, more oil, fresh parley, and then some spoonfuls of the cooking water until it’s lovely and slightly creamy. After adding my usual cheese and red pepper flakes, I dug in and was AMAZED at how flavorful it was. The pasta had a nuttiness to it that was so interesting, and all the ingredients really clung to it nicely. It really elevated the dish to a whole new level. I will definitely to it again! Click here for the full recipe. — Angela M.

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Pasta water is like a magic ingredient!

I make a very similar dish, but with gluten-free corn pasta (it’s really very good!) and a pat of butter in the end. It’s a perfect thing to eat when you’re too exhausted to cook but don’t want to spend the money on ordering in.

I love finding out about doing things that we consider “second nature”.
Recently I changed the way I cook rice. Before, boiling, measuring, simmering waiting for the little holes……..
Now boiling water adding rice and draining.
So simple and a ton better!!!!

Olga Korolev

I cooked this pasta last night (with other stuff in it) and it was fantastic!

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