LAST SUNDAY NIGHT we went to see Blade Runner 2049. We loved everything about the movie but the time frame. The movie started too early to eat beforehand (6:15pm) and ended too late for Sunday-night dinner out (9:25 pm). As we walked by one restaurant after another, each closing down for the night, our choices were narrowing. Following my philosophy that it’s always possible to make something if you have stocked the pantry, we headed for home. By the time we drove into the driveway, I knew exactly what I was going to make, or at least some variation: Spaghetti Aglio e Olio, a/k/a spaghetti with garlic and olive oil.
We walked in the door and I immediately put a big pot of water on the stove to boil, chopped up cloves of garlic and started heating a generous amount of olive oil, enough to bathe the garlic, on a medium-low setting. I even had parsley and dried red pepper flakes, not absolutely necessary but great to add. Too bad when I went to the pantry I didn’t have enough spaghetti for the three of us, or enough fettuccine, or enough angel hair, and I certainly wasn’t going to mix the three into some desperation compilation of pastas. What I did have was a full box of rotini, the corkscrew pasta, more than enough for us, so Rotini Aglio e Olio was born.
Spaghetti or not, garlic and olive oil mixed with pasta makes a pretty good emergency meal. While your pasta of choice, or necessity, cooks, start the sauce. Cook a generous amount of chopped garlic in a bath of olive oil over slow heat until the garlic in soft and fragrant and just about to brown. If you have some, add a pinch of red pepper flakes to give it a kick. When the garlic is soft, carefully ladle some of the pasta cooking water into the oil and garlic mixture. I find about a cup does it. If you have chopped parsley, add it here. Raise the heat to medium and add salt and pepper to taste. Let the mixture come to a simmer for a few minutes to reduce it a little. When the pasta is done, drain it and mix with the garlic-and-oil sauce. If the mixture seems dry, add additional olive oil. Serve with grated Parmesan, Romano or even aged Asiago cheese.
The rotini worked out unexpectedly well, with the corkscrew shape catching the bits of garlic and parsley. Also, it was what I had, so I made do. If you don’t have parsley, don’t worry, it comes out fine anyway. No red pepper flakes, use lemon zest instead. If you have some broccoli or asparagus, steam until tender, cut into bite-size pieces and toss the pieces right in with the cooked pasta. You’ll be proud that you came made a dinner this good. You might even want to plan to make this on purpose, not just as a last-minute save.
—Stephanie Witt Sedgwick
LittleBird “Stephanie Cooks,” a/k/a Stephanie Sedgwick, devises dinner ideas every Monday for MyLittleBird.com. You can do a search for earlier My Dinner With . . . stories.