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It’s amazing how long the taste of garlic can linger in your throat. Some people try to chase it away with toothpaste or gum, but I enjoy it. I put garlic in everything. I think I can understand why, in the 1920’s garlic was referred to as “Italian perfume”.
We Italians love our garlic. Sautéed in olive oil, and tossed with pasta we call it salsa di aglio e olio (garlic and olive oil sauce). Add chile peppers or clams, sausage, pine nuts, or onions to create a delicious pasta dish.
Although garlic is abundant in Italian cooking, it originated in Asia, and was used by the Egyptians as early as 3000 BC. They used it in worship, and fed it to their slaves to increase stamina and fight infections. The Greeks and Romans used it to fight bladder infections and cure asthma. Garlic is a natural antibiotic known to kill bacteria such as salmonella and staphylococcus (which causes pneumonia). When heated, garlic has blood-thinning qualities, which can protect against heart attack and stroke.
I would like to take a moment, and point out to my local grocery store that elephant garlic is not the same as American garlic. Elephant garlic, which has very large and mild flavored cloves tastes more like leeks than garlic. So stop filling the garlic bin with it!
When cooking with garlic, it’s good to remember:
- Garlic loses its potency when cooked. One clove of raw garlic will smell as strong as a dozen cooked cloves.
- For easy peeling, first smash the clove of garlic.
- Be careful when sautéing minced garlic, because it burns quickly. Add it after any other veggies.
- Fresh garlic cloves taste and smell much better than dried garlic. Use them!
So in honor of my favorite member of the onion family, here is a recipe for a basic garlic and olive oil sauce. Add in any veggies, (onions, peppers, mushrooms), herbs (basil, oregano) or meat (shrimp, chicken) you have handy. Serve tossed with spaghetti, fettuccini, linguine, or angel hair pasta. Buon appetito!
Garlic Olive Oil Sauce
1 lb pasta
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6-8 large garlic cloves
Handful of fresh parsley leaves
Smash, peel and mince garlic. Chop parsley.
Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain.
Warm oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and sauté until the garlic becomes golden. Do not allow it to brown.
Turn off the heat and stir in the salt, pepper, and parsley. Toss with pasta and serve. Enjoy!
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