No matter what skill level you reach as a cook or what triumphs of culinary complication you manage to master over the course of a lifetime it’s a plain simple truth that sometimes simpler is better. I feel that the simplest of dishes with the fewest ingredients actually take more skill to master than dishes with complex ingredient lists and prolonged methods.
In a simple dish there is no room for error. You can’t cover a mistake with another layer, or a touch of this or that. This dish is like that. It has just 5 ingredients and takes less than 15 minutes to prepare. A novice cook can easily make this dish and make it well. To make it perfectly every time is something that I strive for… And so far have not mastered.
My kids don’t mind that I keep trying. Buttery garlic pasta is one of their favorite foods, whether as a side dish or as a meal in itself. My wife fell in love with it on her last visit as well. Both of these things make me push myself to make it better every time I cook it. To add just a little more care. To be sure the pasta is perfectly al dente. That there isn’t too much or too little of any one thing. Because there’s no place to hide if I screw it up.
Do you have a simple dish like this in your arsenal? Is there something that you feel could always be just a little better than it was the last time? For me this is that dish.. But then, it’s so delicious that even if I’ve never achieved its pinnacle, the other versions are incredible, too.
- 1 pound pasta. (I prefer gemelli for this dish)
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 3 Tbsp butter
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/8 tsp paprika
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Salt the water generously then add the pasta. Stir once to loosen the noodles. Cook until al dente (about 9 minutes for gemelli). Drain and set aside
- Meanwhile, peel and mince the garlic. Melt the olive oil and butter over medium heat, swirling often to combine. Add garlic to the butter and olive oil. Cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic just begins to brown. Add paprika, salt, pepper and stir to combine.
- Add the pasta to the skillet, toss to coat all noodles evenly and test for seasoning. (you will probably need more salt.)
- Serve immediately.
- Share and Enjoy!
What I would have done differently:
Each time I make this I tweak something just a little. I prefer the garlic crisped as it takes on a slightly nutty and bitter flavor that cuts the richness of the butter well.
Browning the butter adds depth but the added nuttiness almost demands the addition of an acid to the dish; something I’m striving not to use here… The aim of this dish is perfection in simplicity.