Fettucini with Garlic and Olive Oil

3 Aug

Way back when, when the dinosaurs roamed, DH and I honeymooned in Italy. I hadn’t yet caught the playing with my food bug back then, but I liked food a lot and exploring restaurants and bistros and cafes was a highlight of our trip.

I wasn’t that far out of college then and still had one foot mired in ramen noodles and the occasional delivery pizza. In other words, I didn’t know much about real food. I couldn’t sniff out the herbs and individual flavorings in a dish and had no aspirations to eat something in a restaurant and then go home and re-create it; I still followed recipes to a T, fearing the apocalypse if I strayed.

Even with so much ignorance, I knew the food in Italy was different. Part of that was that everything was fresher–people really did get up in the morning and shop at outdoor markets for that night’s meal. But a huge revelation to me was that flavors there didn’t just jump off the plate and pop you in the lips with a big “HI THERE!!”

Italian food was subtle. Garlic was a sparingly-applied perfume, not something that haunted you for hours after a meal. Pizza focused on an amazing crust topped with slices of fresh tomato and tiny bites of cheese–nothing dripped off the sides when you raised a slice to your mouth. Seafood merely kissed the grill before meeting a few drops of lemon, and meat was tender and tasted like meat instead of sauce.

I didn’t know much about food back then, but I knew I liked this way of eating. And a prime example is a simple dish of noodles with garlic and oil. Fresh flavors shine through, and the meal isn’t dominated by one taste over another. Done right, this is comfort food at its best–simple and easy and completely satisfying without screaming at you from the plate.

I made fettucini with garlic and olive oil this week, melding together a few recipes I found online and adding two ingredients I’d never used before in this dish. One is lemon zest, which, like those meals I had in Rome and Positano, provides an undernote to the pasta. You don’t taste lemon, but you do taste something extra that freshens everything up.

The second is mint. Just a touch of mint brightens the whole recipe. I grow mint in my deck’s herb garden so grabbing a handful of leaves was simple. If you don’t and can’t buy just a stem or two at your market, you can leave it out without regret. Again, you never really taste it. It works in harmony with everything else.

You’ll notice my recipe doesn’t use parsley. That’s because I loathe parsley. If you like it, by all means add some. This would also be good with shrimp or clams.

If you’ve never seeded tomatoes, it’s super simple. Cut your tomatoes in half so you’re cutting through the stem end and squeeze them over a trash can. Presto-chango, the seeds will flop out and you’ll be good to go.

I served this with a very simple garlic bread and glass of red wine, and I have to say it’s among my favorite meals. I hope you enjoy it.

You’ll need:

1 pound fettucini

4 cloves garlic, minced very finely

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (do NOT make this with anything but EVOO)

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

4 or 5 fresh tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

About 10 mint leaves, finely chopped

The zest of one lemon

Grated Parmigianno cheese

In a pot of salted water, boil the fettunici noodles until just on the hard side of al dente. Drain but leave the cooking pot on the hot (turned off, but hot) burner.

While the pasta cooks, combine the oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a cold small saucepan. Turn your burner to medium-low and heat the oil mixture, stirring frequently until the garlic just starts to turn golden and you smell it (about six or seven minutes). Don’t go any farther than that with the heat–you’ll burn the garlic. Add the tomato for the last minute of cooking and stir continuously, until it softens a bit and has a chance to absorb some garlic flavor.

Return the pasta to the hot pot. Pour the garlic and oil mixture over it and toss with tongs until each strand is coated. Sprinkle the lemon zest and herbs over top and toss again. Serve, sprinkling each portion with Parmesan cheese.

9 Responses to “Fettucini with Garlic and Olive Oil”

  1. Carrie August 3, 2010 at 3:03 pm #

    This sounds really good. I think I’ll try this one with shrimp! YUM!

  2. Mary m August 3, 2010 at 3:14 pm #

    This sounds so yummy, and EASY!! And if the kids are being whiney, even easy for them to pick the tomatoes out 😉

  3. Lisa August 3, 2010 at 3:15 pm #

    This sounds so wonderful and is very much like some of my favorite meals when I go out to eat. Can’t wait to try it.

  4. mamatulip August 3, 2010 at 4:01 pm #

    YUM. This looks – and sounds – awesome.

  5. Michele August 3, 2010 at 4:11 pm #

    Sounds wonderful. I’m really regretting not purchasing a lemon last night at Whole Foods!!!

    • Michele August 4, 2010 at 9:04 pm #

      I bought a lemon today, so I was a le to make this for dinner. The lemon was key. So worth the wait. Thanks Kim!!!

  6. Heather August 3, 2010 at 4:12 pm #

    Adding this to my regular rotation.

    Would you do anything special to grilled chicken before adding it? Seasoning, etc?

  7. Kim August 3, 2010 at 4:30 pm #

    I’d probably marinate or brush it with a little olive oil, garlic, and maybe a smidge of lemon juice. 🙂

  8. Tiffany August 3, 2010 at 5:02 pm #

    I will definately have to give this a try! Thanks!!

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