A passion for Italy and olive oil.
I’ve spent a lot of time in Europe for work and more often than not have let my stomach drag me to the kitchen to investigate recipes. I love meeting people and food is a great bonding tool. Had the pleasure of a Big Chill-esque week in Umbria with 15 good friends drowning ourselves in food, wine and conversation. Small medieval town called Marciano, which I think is Italian for ‘middle of nowhere’ — perfect foodie retreat. The search for the perfect olive oil is a big passion of mine. A perfect life partner seems attainable but I’m fairly sure on my death bed I will still be wavering between my short list of four superb olive oils and will finally have to admit it was a futile quest. 15 Americans landing in various parts of Italy arriving at a villa after 4-5 hour drives did not make for a very good introduction to our villa. After our meet and greet realization that we had 20 bottles of wine and no corkscrew, we had to give in and agree to eat at the ‘castle’ on the mountain top adjacent to ours. All stone structure opening up into one giant room with two tables seating 25. For our group of 15 New Yorkers it was like the coolest thing ever. We imagined all the food served on the bone with no utensils, sort of sexy. The most amazing thing about the actual meal that arrived was it’s simplicity. The salad was mesculin, sea salt and olive oil. The pasta was uncooked garlic marinated in olive oil. Each dish seemed to have no more than three ingredients and was slowly forming what was possibly one of the best meals of my life. My New York Times trained internal recipe computer was floored. How is it possible that all these dishes with so little ingredients could be so layered. The integrity of the ingredients dictate the quality of food. The people in this town took such pride in making the pasta, the olive oil and every other ingredient that the flavors were so full. My recipe is not long enough to post on it’s own but is for the pasta we enjoyed that night. Finely chop a full head of garlic the day before your meal and marinate in a good amount of olive oil. Like ¾ cup of olive oil for each package of pasta you intend to cook. Make sure you like the olive oil. Whether it be flowery or more robust it must be to your liking as it will dictate the taste of the final product. Basically, marinate the garlic in olive oil overnight. 20 minutes before serving boil the pasta al dente, drain and slowly start adding teaspoonfuls of garlic and olive oil to the pasta. Continue to toss and add oil until all the pasta is coated. Make sure you use good quality pasta. Angel hair or spaghetti is fine. You can add crushed red pepper or a strong parmesean cheese but I think you will find that the perfect balance of fresh garlic and olive oil is the way to go.