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.

From our partners

birthday cupcakes for miss isadora

A couple of weeks ago, I asked for some advice on what kind of cupcakes I should serve Isadora on her first birthday. Ideas poured in, ranging from carrot to chocolate. But then the very next day, Erica P. posted about a banana chocolate cake, and I thought, “That’s it!” The recipe is from Cooking Light, and has apple sauce in it instead of too much sugar. I followed the instructions exactly but baked for only 20 minutes instead of 40. I topped it off with a simple light cream cheese frosting. Needless to say, Isadora enjoyed them a great deal … though honestly, we liked them even more than she did! — Angela M.

From our partners

post off: could you live without a fridge?


There’s a new and somewhat contested trend among the environmentally conscious: unplugging the refrigerator for good to reduce energy consumption. Well, I have some experience with this one: I once lived without a refrigerator for an entire year. My reasons weren’t quite so lofty — I had an illegal cat, and when my fridge went on the fritz, rather than figure out how to have the landlord fix it without discovering my kitty, I simply put it off. And put it off. For an entire year! And now I come to find that these new refrigerator shunners are using the same methods I used as a procrastinating twentysomething — storing soda on the windowsill when it’s cold out, keeping a cooler of ice handy, and not buying more than they can consume in an evening. (I probably ate out a lot, too.) So what do you think — are they onto something? Could you or would you unplug your fridge? –Mary T.

Image via the New York Times.

From our partners

how to prevent oil spills in your pantry

We use Whole Foods‘ 365 olive oil for everyday cooking. It’s tasty, affordable and healthy. My only issue? The oil spills down the side of the bottle with each pour. We try to clean it after every use, but with our busy schedules and an infant, we sometimes forget. This results in a ring of oil on our pantry shelf, which I’ve heard can attract certain types of ants—gross!

I’ve seplaceed for a bottle-pourer to replace the one it comes with, but I haven’t been able to find one that fits. (I know, I’ve spent way too much time thinking about this.) I was looking at a back issue of Cooks Illustrated recently and came across a simple solution for this exact issue: you fold a paper towel or cloth around the top half of the bottle and secure it with a rubberband. Now we don’t have to worry about getting oil everywhere—and I know I’m not the only one who obsesses about things like this. — Michelle V.K.

From our partners
From our partners