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Raw Garlic with Pasta

I just received Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion, which is regarded as the bible of home cooking in Australia. In the pasta section I spotted something interesting:

“Drain pasta and quickly add olive oil and garlic to the hot cooking pot, then tip the pasta back in and toss with a big handful of freshly chopped herbs.”

“For one of the best of all pasta dishes, toss a sliced garlic clove, best-quality parmesan cheese, rocket leaves or garden-fresh parsley and good extra-virgin olive oil with hot pasta.”

These are short recipes located in the column of the page, intended for one, quick serving.

Do you think the garlic is suppose to be sautéed first? I know it might be a silly question, but I haven’t been cooking for long. I’ve never heard of raw garlic being used with pasta.

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  1. Raw garlic appears frequently as an ingredient in recipes. I love garlic but not in the raw state, If I absolutely must use raw garlic I press it rather than chop or finely mince. I think the directions in your recipes to use garlic in the raw state expect the heat of the macaroni will mellow out the rawness. Test a small portion first to see how you like it... if you don't, gently saute minced garlic a few seconds right in the same pan then toss the pasta in with the rest of the ingredients.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Gio

      +1- I have no problem with my garlic press

    2. I think your instincts are right about these recipes. The way I would recommend achieving something like the result they are aiming for is to macerate the chopped herbs in very good oil in a serving bowl (or individual bowl, if you're just making one portion). Then toss the hot pasta in the flavored oil. If you want to add parmigiano, you can, either grated or shaved. As for the garlic, the sliced raw garlic sounds awful, especially with the parmigano, but if you want a mild garlic taste, put a peeled clove (crushed to make it stronger) in the oil with the herbs, then remove it. Anything more is overkill. Put the herbs in the oil, the put the water on to boil. Don't put the oil back in the pot. That is silly. You'll waste all that oil that will stick to the sides of the pot.

      2 Replies
      1. re: mbfant

        The point is that the hot pot and pasta will semi-cook the garlic. Another method I have heard of is to put sliced garlic into a colander before draining the cooked pasta. The hot water cooks the garlic as it drains through. None of these methods will yield the same flavor as sauteeing the garlic in oil, which would be my preference. Keep in mind that sliced garlic is much less pungent than crushed/pressed/chopped. The less cutting, the fewer sulfuric compounds are released.

        1. re: greygarious

          I just did this and it tasted great. A very nice lunch on a hot day.

      2. I love raw garlic with pasta, much more than I like it cooked. Try it and you'll see what YOU think, it is a cheap easy experiment.

        1. In the summer we make a sauce with ripe, raw tomato, raw garlic, torn basil leaves, and olive oil. Delicious.

          1. I think the recipe means for it to be raw, but the trick may be to slice the garlic very thin. I have a little garlic slicer/mandoline for that purpose and it slices it paper thin which means it will get cooked when put in the hot cooking pot with the olive oil--which the recipe says to do quickly for that very reason. Sounds good to me..

            1 Reply
            1. re: escondido123

              I concur...I have the same garlic mandoline it slices the garlic so thinly that the slices are translucent! Perfect for this recipe which has my mouth watering!

            2. I have a variation that I call Pasta la Vista. raw minced garlic. raw minced onion and blue cheese and fresh hot pasta. it's so good!

              1. Not only do I like raw garlic with pasta, but I just like raw garlic. Period.

                I'll eat raw garlic cloves like I would a handful of nuts.

                4 Replies
                1. re: ipsedixit

                  +1, Here I was thinking I'm the only one who does that. People think I'm crazy. Raw garlic is awesome.

                  I'll be trying the pasta indicated in the orignal post. Sounds like a winner.

                  1. re: Dee S

                    I mince raw garlic with my press and spread it on toast with butter for breakfast.

                    I have never been bitten by a vampire....but come to think of it... my sex life is downhill recently too :/

                    1. re: Dee S

                      Try it dipped with some dijon mustard, or Balsamic vinegar.

                    2. re: ipsedixit

                      wow, I've never even thought to just grab a handful of raw garlic. Maybe I'll try a clove one of these times.

                      That said - yes the recipe is intending for you to use raw garlic. The quick heat of the pan and then the hot pasta is all the cooking they are intending. It is a great, quick, easy recipe just like it is intended.

                    3. I could be wrong, but I think the garlic in pasta alla cecca is generally made with the garlic and other ingredients uncooked or just heated lightly. That's how I normally make it.

                      I don't like boiling cloves of garlic with pasta (or mashed potatoes, for that matter) though, as in the suggestion you mention. It makes the pasta and garlic both taste funny.

                      For something like pasta aglio olio e peperoncino, I usually fry the chopped garlic and fresh or dried chili peppers in some olive oil in a skillet, add some pasta cooking water and salt, then toss the pasta in the skillet.