Spaghetti with Toasted Garlic, Breadcrumbs and Herbs
A humble pasta dish with toasted garlic, toasted breadcrumbs and two kinds of herbs–sometimes less really is more.
One of the first countries I visited as a new traveler twenty years ago was Italy. Like for most people, the country had reigned at the top spot on my list of places to see. Unsurprisingly, once I got a taste of the country’s rich culture, the Italians’ warmth and neighborliness and great food, one visit had to be followed by another…and another.
My first visit to Italy covered the northern region as part of a winter ski trip in Cervinia with stops at Milan and Lake Como. Subsequent visits would have us concentrating on sunnier locales closer to the beach, including jaunts to less popular–at least for American travelers–Sardinia and the Aeolian Islands.
Even though I knew I could get by not speaking Italian, I’d always taken seriously the responsibility of at least trying to speak the language of the country I’m visiting. I never left home without a phrase book and Italy was no exception. Thankfully, my broken, clumsy Italian garnered enough appreciation (or was it pity?) so it never took more than a couple of sentences before I was encouraged to continue the conversation in English. In the big cities knowing I could always fall back to English was a comfort but this was not always possible when passing through small villages.
But there was always one aspect of traveling around Italy that was never a problem: eating. The language of Italian food is universal. Having read enough Italian menus here at home, I’ve rarely ever needed to ask for the dreaded English menu. When in doubt I simply ordered pasta and I’ve never been disappointed. In fact, it’s these experiences during our travels that introduced my palate to the humble dishes that make Italian cuisine, to me, so rich.
The Italian food of my childhood consisted of sweet red sauce and Alfredo sauce. It wasn’t until these trips that I came to recognize that pasta didn’t need to be drowning in sauce and meat in order to be flavorful. Simple ingredients like capers, olives or anchovies could make a plate of pasta shine.
So when the kind people at Bialetti reached out to me to try their pasta pot I knew instantly the kind of dish I wanted to create to test their product. The words simple, humble and hearty came to mind; no fancy ingredients but with all the goodness that comes from a nonna’s kitchen.
It doesn’t get more humble than garlic and breadcrumbs. Both toasted until golden they’re tossed in spaghetti with the garlic-infused olive oil, parsley, mint, lemon juice and peperoncino. The garlic adds boldness, breadcrumbs crunch, the herbs freshness, the lemon brightness and the peperoncino some punch.
This, my take on the classic Spaghetti Alio, Olio e Peperoncino, is made bolder by using a whole head of garlic and using mint instead of just traditional parsley. Don’t be afraid to use this much garlic and the mint. The flavors complement each other and balance out beautifully. The breadcrumbs are a substitute for cheese and if you haven’t ever tried what’s commonly known as poor man’s Parmigiano, you’ll be surprised how satisfying it can be on pasta.
Now if you love pasta as much as I do you might wonder if you need this pot in your kitchen and my answer is yes, especially if it’s as practical as this Bialetti pasta pot. I have limited space in my kitchen so every new product I add must prove itself worthy of precious cabinet space.
What I love about this pasta pot is the convenience of being able to take the pot to the sink and pouring out the boiling water without having to pull out a colander. The lid twists and locks easily in place and the handles stay cool so you don’t need to worry about forgetting to grab a kitchen towel or oven mitts during that mad rush to reach the sink before your perfectly al dente pasta becomes overcooked and mushy. The aluminum construction makes it sturdy but pleasantly lightweight, too.
After draining the pasta water I loved being able to return to the stove and tossing the rest of the ingredients right in the pot. The nonstick interior kept the pasta from sticking to the pot.
Two other important points: The $34.99 price point makes this pasta pot accessible to most cooks and I also found it to be ideal for more than just boiling pasta. The oval shape is not only good for boiling pasta without having to break it but it’s awesome for corn. Boiled corn is a summer staple for us and its oval shape makes it perfect so you can get larger ears of corn without worry. They can be stacked in the pot, too. I can also see blanching vegetables in this pot–the locking lid makes it super easy and convenient to drain the water and serve the vegetables immediately.
As we head into cooler weather I’m beginning to crave hearty meals and there’s nothing heartier and more comforting than a plate of pasta. Just like that first Bialetti stovetop coffee maker we brought home as a souvenir from that first trip to Italy two decades ago, this pasta pot has also earned a place in my kitchen. If you don’t trust me then take it from Oprah–this pot made it on her 2016 Favorite Things holiday list and I can see why.
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. I received a free product in exchange for an honest product review. All opinions are my own; if a product doesn’t meet my standard of quality it will not appear on this site.
Spaghetti with Toasted Garlic, Breadcrumbs and Herbs
A humble pasta dish with toasted garlic, toasted breadcrumbs and two kinds of herbs--sometimes less really is more.
For the Toasted Breadcrumbs
- 1 cup Plain Panko Breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
For the Pasta
- 1 head garlic, cloves peeled and sliced
- 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 cup combined freshly chopped parsley and mint
- kosher salt, to taste
- 1 cup pasta water
- Juice of one lemon
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente.
While you wait for the water to boil, in a small skillet or pan, heat the two tablespoons of olive oil to medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and toast until golden, stirring occasionally, about six to eight minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside when done.
In another small or medium pan, heat the 2/3 cup of olive oil to medium heat then add the sliced garlic and red pepper flakes (if using). You want the garlic to toast and become golden gradually so watch your heat carefully. This step should take 15-18 minutes so adjust the heat to medium low if necessary. Remove the toasted garlic from the pan and set aside.
When the pasta is done cooking, collect 1 cup of the pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta and put it back in the pot.
Add the toasted garlic, toasted breadcrumbs, herbs, lemon juice and olive oil to the pasta. I would start with just 1/2 cup of the olive oil that the garlic cooked in and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water. Toss together, season with salt and add as much of the remaining olive oil and pasta water as you feel the pasta needs. Serve warm. (If you don't use all the garlic-infused olive oil, save it for later use).