Like pulling doves out of an empty top hat, this pasta is one of those “something from nothing” dishes that comes together like magic. It goes to show that your fridge can be virtually empty, save a scrap of cheese, a lonely egg, and some garnish and you can turn it into a wholesome meal that tastes as good as it looks.
Here are three key things to remember that will make or break this dish (as well as most simple pastas).
- Make sure the water you’re boiling your pasta in is adequately salted. Your pasta should taste lightly salted when it comes out of the water. This requires a lot more salt in the water than you might imagine, certainly more than the pinch that many people add. This above anything is the secret to a flavorful pasta, especially when you’re not covering it in sauce. Until you get a good sense of the amount of salt you need to add to the water, it would be best to get a spoon and taste the water once the salt has dissolved. It shouldn’t be quite as salty as seawater, but it should be saltier than a soup.
- The second thing is to cook the pasta al dente. I know that some people prefer their pasta soft, but in a sauceless pasta, the pasta IS the dish. Since there’s no meat or other substantial elements to give it texture, if you boil your pasta until mushy, you’ll have a mushy dish. Like any food, pasta continues to cook after you remove it from the heat source, so it’s important to drain it just before it’s perfect. For a 9 minute spaghetti, I usually drain it at 8 minutes and let it finish cooking as I toss it with the other ingredients.
- The last thing may sound really obvious, and I know I say it a lot, but use good ingredients. Without a sauce to gloss over the rough spots, the quality of each ingredient counts. In this case, the most important ingredient is the olive oil. Use one that is full bodied, yet smooth, something that you would enjoy dipping bread in.
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