Aglio olio is one of the quickest -- and most simply delicious -- Italian dishes to prepare. All you need is fresh garlic (the aglio) and olive oil (the olio) plus salt, black pepper, red pepper if you wish, and some pasta. Any variety of pasta will work.
For our book club dinner, I used: 6 cloves of garlic: four minced, two crushed in a garlic press; 3 Tablespoons pomace olive oill;* 1/2 lb durum semolina spaghetti, imported from Italy; salt, black pepper to taste; premium, full-bodied olive oil for finishing the dish (I use Frantoia or Olio Verde, imported from Italy.); red pepper flakes to taste -- optional; Parmesan cheese -- optional.
DIRECTIONS: Sautée the minced and crushed garlic in the 3 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan on medium-low heat until the garlic is just turning from golden to brown. Remove from the flame and set aside.
Boil the pasta in heavily salted water for about 7-8 minutes for spaghetti (exact time will differ if you're using rigatoni or a thicker pasta that requires more cooking time). Rule of thumb is to use water as salty as the sea and to undercook the pasta two minutes less than the directions advise. I like to finish cooking pasta in the sauce, whether a simple aglio olio or a marinara, adding to the pan some of the water in which I slightly under-boiled my pasta.
Meanwhile, drizzle high quality olive oil in the bottom of your serving dish to coat it -- about 2 Tablespoons should do the trick.
When the pasta has a bit more tooth to it than when it would be fully al dente, scoop the pasta from the boiling water with a sieve or a straining ladle and add it to the pan with the sauteed garlic. Return the pan to heat on a low flame and stir the pasta to coat with the garlic and oil. Add about 1/2 cup of the salted water in which you boiled the pasta and simmer on low until the water is absorbed.
Transfer the cooked pasta into the serving bowl, adjust salt to taste, add the black pepper and red pepper flakes if desired, and toss to combine. At this point feel free to drizzle on a bit more premium olive oil if the pasta looks too "dry."
Serves four to five as a first course. Buon appetito!
* pomace olive oil is sold online and in some grocery stores/Italian markets. Pomace is perfect for cooking, and is easier on the budget than the robust premium olive oil you'd use to punch up the flavor of salad or pasta
"This book should be required reading in any Italian-American History class, as well as anyone wishing to study the female’s role in the Italian family. This book, while not an exercise in journalism, could also prove beneficial to students of the craft as Ms. Tintori’s prior training in the field served her well while untangling her great-aunt’s mystery."
"Unto the Daughters proves that all stories of our ancestors deserve to be told, the good, the bad and the ugly…and perhaps that is Francesca Costa’s legacy to us all."
You can read Longo's entire review here.
If you are an educator using Unto the Daughters in your curriculum, I would love to know. I have visited several classrooms both in person and via Skype. Grazie tanto.
Scholastic Magazine brought the 1090 Cherry Mine disaster to the attention of middle grade students in the United States with a full-color cover story in its November, 2019, issue. Highlighting the prevalence of child labor in 1909, Scholastic painted the grim picture of children's daily lives early in the last century via the story of the United State's worst coal mine disaster. School was not an option for children born into poor families, nor from immigrant families who crossed the ocean to work in U.S. coal mines. Every nickel and dime earned by these young boys was desperately needed for daily survival. So parents falsified ages on job applications while mine company bosses looked the other way, and children sat for hours in complete darkness -- tasked with the boring duty of waiting to open and close tunnel doors to permit mule teams to pull full coal cars to the elevator shaft and then rush the empties back to the miners to refill.
Among the major legal changes resulting from the Cherry Mine disaster was the adoption of stricter national child labor laws.
Seven months after the disaster, the St. Paul Coal Company, which operated the mine at Cherry, pled guilty to nine counts of child labor law violations -- and was fined a total of $630.
If you are a teacher who discussed the Cherry Mine disaster with your students as a result of Scholastic's feature coverage, I would love to hear the children's feedback.
When I was a child, May was the month of bright yellow forsythia, fuzzy fat pussy willow, and the May altars my classmates and I concocted from shoe boxes disguised with tinfoil and adorned with doilies, flowers real and artificial, and glow-in-the-dark or dashboard-sized statues of the Virgin Mary. The time of First Holy Communions and, ultimately, the pageant to crown Mary's statue at the side altar of church, May was probably the month when I first learned "Lovely Lady Dressed in Blue" by Mary Dixon Thayer, a poem/prayer I memorized in grade school.
This May, I am thrilled to share the current issue of Ovunque Siamo, the online journal of New Italian-American Writing edited by Michelle Messina Reale, in which my Madonne Nere inspired riff on Thayer's poem appears.
Here is a taste of my LOVELY LADY, DARK OF HUE,:
Lovely Lady, dark of hue,
Teach me how to pray.
A god was born your little boy,
Tell me what to say
When you sat him, as he grew,
Gently on your knee
Did you sing to him the way
My mother sang to me?
Did he hold your hand at night?
Did you ever cry
Telling him stories of the world?
Ah! Then did he pry
The deepest secrets from your soul —
The name of every herb,
Of every sacred flower
You sowed to save the earth?
Lovely lady, darkly hewn
From an ancient tree....