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Jul 5, 2010 07:46 PM

How to infuse the flavor?

Sorry for the vague topic, I'm at a loss for anything more descriptive at the moment. I'm very new to cooking; I'm a 20-something living with roommates and I've decided to start. Lately I've been trying to master a simple spaghetti dish: Aglio e Olio. It's just spaghetti with garlic sauteed in olive oil. I also add white whine.

I'm trying to get the garlic and the whine to really get into the pasta. Right now it's trial-and-error and I was wondering if there's anything I may be missing, because the results are slow. A few years ago I had a similar dish that was cooked up by a relative who was vacationing from Italy, and he really made these basic ingredients come alive. They mixed together very well and the spaghetti held onto it well.

So any tips? Any common newbie mistakes? My process right now is put on the noodles, crush and mince the garlic, start sauteing, drain the noodles well, dump them into the frying pan, then add the whine about a minute or two before I serve it. I'm just really trying to infuse the spaghetti with flavor.

Oh and BTW I've added live clams to this dish and it tasted AMAZING. But the spaghetti itself was still nothing special.

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  1. I'd suggest partially cooking the noodles then drain well. (save some of the pasta water) Puree the garlic with the wine & finish cooking spaghetti in that; add a drizzle of olive oil and pasta water, if you need it at the end. Also, you can just cook the noodles in the garlic & wine & skip the water and you can roast the garlic before adding to the spaghetti to intensify the flavor.

    1. For such a simple dish, it took me years to get it right. This is different that yours, but maybe you're missing a step from your relative and this could jog your memory. It's such a quick dish to make you could easily miss something if you blinked your eyes.

      I saute eight whole garlic cloves in a cup of olive oil (something decent since it is the main ingredient of the sauce) til starting to brown, then remove. If you love garlic, go ahead and crush or dice, and leave in, but my way is garlicky enough for us. Then I add a couple of anchovy filets, this is not traditional (there is actually another name for this type of sauce) but there's your secret flavor. Add some fresh parsley and maybe some crushed red pepper and then turn off heat.

      Then I immediately add a dipper of water from the boiling pasta pot, and I guess here is where you would sub wine if you wanted. Not traditional, but then again I add anchovies, so who am I to say. Either way be ready with a lid til the spitting stops. Then dump the garlic sauce in the pot with the drained spaghetti (although my husband must have cappellini/angel hair) cover and hold til you serve a few minutes later.

      My husband must have bread crumbs sauted in a half cup of olive oil til brown to top this dish, although I seldom partake.

      3 Replies
      1. re: coll

        I have heard about adding anchovy fillets. I'm definitely going to be doing that for when I start on marinara sauce or cioppino, and I'll probably see what it's like in Aglio e Olio. Does it just add saltiness or does it bring a whole other layer?

        Also, would you really put the wine in so late? I don't have experience cooking with whine, so I'm uncertain when the best time to put it in is. I want to get the sweetness from the grapes to be present.

        1. re: JasonMichaelFord

          You want to cook the alcohol out of the wine first so there's no boozy flavor in the pasta. Coll neglected to mention that you mash the anchovies into the oil and garlic, or use the anchovy paste in a tube. You may want to add Parmesan at the end.

          1. re: greygarious

            The anchovies just fall apart in the oil if it's as hot as mine gets, and since you're not adding any other salt it's not noticable at all, just a great full flavor. I wouldn't put wine in at all, so can't say there. I don't think wine would add the flavor you're seeking anyway, it;s not that kind of dish. It should be oil based. (Now, whine, on the other hand, it's never too late for that!)

            As far as parmesan, it's a must in my house but it's added at the table, along with more red pepper. As with every Italian meal in DH's family. I didn't mention it due to the anchovy factor, don't want to start a fish/cheese war.

      2. I'm wondering if you salt your pasta water enough. I find especially with the simple dishes the flavor never makes it without that jacuzzi in oceany water.

        1 Reply
        1. re: just_M

          Actually that's something I'm just now getting right. It really is quite necessary, it's just hard to grab as much salt as is needed and just throw it in. It always feels like way too much to me!

          Wow I feel like an idiot, I've been spelling out "whine" this whole time lol. And I know that I need to burn off the alcohol, but I'm wondering if I should keep it on just long enough to do that, or should I add the wine in really early? I do feel the wine is important just because I think some sweetness would really augment the overall flavor.