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