Easy Recipe for Linguine with Garlic, Parsley, and Parmesan
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Cooking is easy. No, really, it is. You, too, can cook tasty, nutritious meals that will impress your friends and keep your cholesterol low. All you need are a few basic tools, some heat, and a little confidence. I got this recipe from a friend of mine, and it’s so elegantly simple, I was able to replicate it in my own kitchen a couple days later, in spite of not having written anything down as I watched him cook. This vegetarian recipe is perfect for a warm afternoon at the tail end of summer.
- Linguine noodles, (I usually get them at the store, but it’s possible to make them yourself.)
- Olive Oil, (extra-virgin is recommended, but don’t be a snob about it.)
- Fresh garlic, (we grow it in our yard, but you can find it at the farmers’ market)
- Fresh parsley, (we grow this as well, but again, farmers’ market)
- Black pepper, (This doesn’t grow in North America, but you knew that.)
- Crushed red pepper, (optional)
- Salt, (NaCl)
- A lemon, (no, really!)
- Parmesan cheese, (The powdery stuff in the green cylinder will work, but do yourself a favor: get the fresh stuff.)
- A great big pot (for boiling the noodles)
- A great big colander (for washing the parsley and draining the noodles)
- A great big frying pan (for sautéing—well, pretty much everything)
- A great big bowl (for tossing everything together)
- A grater* (for the cheese)
- A wide-bladed knife (for cutting things)
- A cutting board (for cutting things on)
- A pepper mill (freshly ground black pepper is superior to the pre-ground kind)
- A couple big spoons (for tossing everything together)
- A few little bowls (for putting ingredients in until you need them—these are optional)
*You thought I was going to say “A great big grater,” didn’t you?
Some Useful Stuff
You want your pot to be big enough to hold all the water you need as well as your pasta. The built-in strainer is a nice feature, but not needed if you have a colander.
Get a big colander. A big one will do fine for a small meal; a small one won't work for a big meal.
You need a big pan to hold all those ingredients. Normally I'm an advocate of cast iron cookware, but if you ever cook with tomatoes, you'll want something nonreactive, like stainless steel.
You need a big bowl, too. Simple is fine.
You can spend as much as you want on your knives, but Chicago Cutlery makes quality goods at an affordable price.
A wood cutting board is the way to go. It will be kinder to your knives than a plastic one. To keep it clean, do not use soap. Instead, douse it with boiling water and scrub it with a green scrubby. Once in a while, sand the top down a bit, and treat it with food grade mineral oil.
The ones with the hand crank are fancy, but this one will serve your needs. Plus, it's cheaper.
Like anything, you can pay as much as you want to for a pepper mill. An inexpensive one will do the job just as well, though.
Use something like these to toss your pasta.
Here's What You Do
- First, go wash your hands. This is probably obvious to most of you, but some folks still need to be reminded. So take care of that, fellas, and then we’ll get started.
- From here on, we’ll assume you’re feeding about four adults. With that in mind, remember that you can expand or decrease this recipe for more or fewer dinner guests. Also, remember that the proportions of each ingredient depend largely on personal preference. I use more garlic than most folks, for example. At the same time, most of the people in my family don’t like spicy things, so I generally don’t put the crushed red pepper in the pan; rather, I put it on the table for each person to use to his own taste. When cooking, follow Obi-Wan’s advice: “You must do what you feel is right, of course.”
- Now then: fill your great big pot with water and put it on the stove, over high heat. You’re going to be boiling the noodles in this.
- While the water gets hot, get your garlic bulb and break off several cloves. I love garlic, so I usually use maybe four cloves if they’re big. If you don’t like garlic that much, use less at your discretion. Peel off the hard outer skin, and coarsely chop your garlic with your knife. Don’t mince it into tiny pieces—you want the texture as well as the flavor. Set the chopped garlic aside for later.
- Wash your parsley. If you bought it fresh at the farmers’ market, it’s probably still on the stem. This is a Good Thing; it’ll make it easier to wash. Run the parsley under the cold water for a while, and then shake the water off into the sink. Pick the leaves off the stems. Do not use any of the stem: the stem will taste bitter, and you don’t want that in your food. Once you’ve got your parsley reduced to only leaves, chop the leaves coarsely. Put the chopped leaves aside for later. You should have about a double-handful of chopped parsley.
- The water is probably boiling by now. If not, wait for it to start boiling. When it is, shake a bit of salt into it and put the noodles in. Make sure they all get into the water. Use the whole package. It’ll take maybe ten minutes to reach the al-dente stage. Some people will tell you that the ‘authentic’ way to test for doneness is this: fish out a noodle and throw it against the wall. If it sticks, it’s ready. If not, it isn’t. While this is all kinds of fun, it’s a tad messy. Besides, you don’t need to do it. Just fish out a noodle, let it cool for a moment, and eat it. If it’s ready, you’ll know. If it’s not, you’ll still know.
- When the noodles are nearly ready, slosh a bunch of olive oil into your great big frying pan and put it over medium heat. (Do not use high heat to heat it up faster—more is not better in this case!) The next few steps will need to take place in rapid succession. Think about what you’re going to be doing beforehand, and line up your utensils and ingredients so they’ll be ready when you need them. Perhaps you’ll want to put on some inspiring music to help you get a rhythm going? Do what works for you. Ready? Let’s go.
- Drain the noodles with the colander, reserving about a half-cup of the noodle-water. Leave the noodles in the colander or put them in the big bowl; put the water in a small bowl or back into the original pot. It doesn’t matter where you keep the noodles and the water, but keep track of them both.
- Throw the garlic into the pan. The garlic will start to cook very quickly. Keep an eye on it! Or really, I should say, “a nose.” When you start to smell the garlic cooking, that’s the moment to put the parsley in.
- Put the parsley in. Slide the pan back and forth over the heat. If you’re feeling fancy, consider tossing it in the air; it’s fun, and it keeps everything moving about nicely in the pan. Do this for about thirty seconds, no more.
- Grind some black pepper into the pan and jiggle it about some more.
- Now add the noodles. Jiggle the pan.
- Throw in a pinch (if you’re Some, and you Like it Hot, use more than a pinch) of crushed red pepper. Jiggle some more, and pour in the reserved noodle-water.
- Now tip the contents of the pan into your great big bowl. Use one of the spoons to keep it from escaping if you need to—there’s no shame in that. Now you can relax a bit and start taking it slower.
- Cut your lemon in half and squeeze the juice over the bowl. The pips will probably fall in; use a fork (or your fingers, since you washed) to take them out
- Grate the parmesan cheese over the bowl. Use the spoons to toss the mixture until the garlic and parsley and cheese are more or less evenly distributed amongst the noodles. Grate some more parmesan cheese over it whenever it looks like it needs some.
- When you think it’s ready (it will be ready soon—don’t let it get cold while you fiddle with it!), serve.
In Case You Need Some Inspiring Music
This dish pairs very well with lemonade (or citron pressé, if you’re French) or limonade (sparkling lemonade, if you’re American). If you’re of age, I recommend a crisp white wine, like a pinot grigio or sauvginon blanc. If you prefer beer, keep it light—go with something like Stella Artois or Warsteiner Pils. Or if you’d rather not mess about with flavorful beverages, serve sparkling mineral water like San Pelligrino or Perrier.
If you’re just throwing something together for a few mates, this dish stands nicely on its own (especially if they’re vegetarians!) If you want to impress someone special, though, consider serving an appetizer (prep it beforehand and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to cook). After dinner, brew some coffee and serve up some tiramisu (you’re going to have to buy this at the local patisserie—tiramisu is beyond my skill) or even better, some nice mints (garlic, remember?).
Once you’re confident with this recipe, don’t be afraid to change it up. Everything is better with mushrooms; maybe slice a few and put them in the frying pan along with the garlic. Some sliced black olives or diced roma tomatoes (or both--what the hey?) might be just the thing to toss with the cooked pasta; they’ll certainly add new color and texture to the dish. Maybe you want to use romano cheese instead of parmesan. Do what you like.
It’s your kitchen; be the chef!