May - To Green Shoots and Lighter Evenings

Green shoots and lighter eveningsA simple but stunning pasta dish to make the most of the new season's garlic and olive oil

We all know that spaghetti with garlic, chilli and olive oil is one of the laziest, most convenient and yet ultimately satisfying dishes in existence in the face of a carb craving, if not a hard day at the mill. If the ingredients - pasta, garlic, chilli flakes, olive oil, salt, pepper and Parmesan - aren't always ready and waiting in your kitchen, then you can't be very interested in food and you may as well stop reading now.

For those still with me, this store-cupboard special takes on added panache if you choose to make it in spring. By the end of April, the new season's garlic is showing its fresh, green face in farmers' markets, while its wild cousin allium ursinum - ramsons or buckrams, as its also known - is busy colonising those bosky spots it likes the feel of - deciduous woodlands, generally, though it ventures quite happily out of the woods to the roadside. Its tiny white flowers are unsuitable for cooking and too smelly for floral art, but the pointed, deep-green leaves smell perceptibly garlicky if rubbed. (Be sure to do this test as they bear a striking similarity to those of at least three poisonous plants, including lily-of-the-valley). The flavour is somewhere between chives and crushed garlic, and it is used to enhance, rather than replace the latter in this recipe.

I find this is also a good time to crack a bottle of newly vintaged olive oil which will have come out of its fiery 'nouveau' stage and settled nicely into a fragrant, subtly peppery, fruitiness. It's used here more as warm dressing than cooking medium, so only the best will do, as with all minimalist recipes. It stands up to the chilli better too, so no false economies per favore.

If, on paper, this is the easiest of pasta recipes, it is, in practice, very easy to ruin. Burning the garlic is the first elephant trap, the jaws of which a moment's inattention opens wide. The second is overdoing the chilli - how much you add is entirely a matter of taste, but no wine lover wants to lose the use of his or her tastebuds. The third is to overcook the pasta. Packet instructions err on the side of the toothless, which is not at all what al dente means so get into the habit of jumping the gun and tasting for bite.

Finally, ready-grated Parmesan may save labour and washing-up, but it's also devoid of taste, excitement and, most vitally, provenance. There is no substitute for splurging on the most gnarled and craggy lump of the real McCoy that you can find. Store your treasure not in a clammy plastic mac, but in a nice, fridge-friendly earthenware or china pot with a lid, where it will reward you with long life and peerless flavour.

The best wine option is a brisk white or pink, made from hardy Mediterranean grapes that take no nonsense from loud food. Italy comes to mind, notably Sicily, Sardinia and its neighbour Corsica, as do the flavoursome and herby whites of the Languedoc and Roussillon. Gérard Gauby's Calcinaires Blanc is a sublime match.

PASTA AGLIO E' OLIO

Pasta Aglio e' Olio

For 4

  • 400g spaghetti or tagliatelle
  • Generous pinch salt
  • 4-6 tablespoons premium-quality olive oil (don't stint on this, please)
  • 4-6 cloves new season's garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Pinch of chilli flakes, to taste, or use half chilli-flavoured oil and half olive oil to fry the garlic
  • A bunch of wild garlic leaves, well washed and chopped
  • Whole salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • A goodly chunk of Parmesan or aged Pecorino cheese - this will take a fair bit. Allow about 100g and grate at the last minute.

Bring a large pan of water to a rolling boil and salt generously. Throw in the pasta and subtract a couple of minutes from the recommended cooking time. Twirl out a strand and check the bite.

Meanwhile, heat the oil gently in a frying-pan large enough to accommodate the cooked pasta in due course. Add the chilli flakes and let them scent the oil. Put in the garlic slices and wild garlic and when the former have begun to change colour, remove the pan from the flame. Let the oil infuse in its residual heat.

As soon as the pasta is done, ladle out 150ml of the cooking water and add it to the aromatised oil in the frying-pan. This is vital, for a smooth, glossy result. Turn on the heat and let it come to the simmer and bubble away while you drain the pasta and grate the Parmesan.

Now add the drained pasta to the pan, turning it in the oily-garlicky-starchy-watery juices. Throw in a generous handful of Parmesan.

Divide between four warmed bowls and season generously with salt and pepper. Sprinkle over another helping of Parmesan. A final bright-green slick of your best olive oil does no harm either.

Serve. Sigh profoundly, feel that you have, as my late mother-in-law used to say, by way of a post prandial compliment, 'been done good to'.


MATCH OF THE DAY

Friendly: Vermentino de Sardegna Iocalia, Melis 2012

Premier League: Patrimonio Clos Alivu Rosé 2013

Director's Box: Côtes du Roussillon-Villages Les Calcinaires Blanc 2010, Domaine Gauby

May 2015

Members' Comments (0)

There are no comments for this article.
Society Promise
Members before profit
Awards

Our website uses cookies with the aim of providing you with a better service. By using this website you consent to The Wine Society using cookies in accordance with our policy.

Close

4.4. Cookie Policy

By using The Wine Society website, you agree to cookies being used in accordance with the policy outlined below. If you do not agree to this, you must alter your browser settings to turn off cookies or block those types which are unacceptable to you or cease using the website.

The Wine Society uses cookies to enable easy navigation and shopping on the website. We take the privacy of all who use our website very seriously and ensure that our use of cookies complies with current EU legislation. The following guide outlines what cookies are, the types of cookies used on The Society's website and how they work.

You may alter your browser settings to turn off cookies or block those types which are unacceptable to you, but this will cause difficulties when accessing and using some areas of the site. Instructions on how to do this can also be found below.

4.4.1. What are 'Cookies'?

  • Most major websites use cookies.
  • A cookie is a very small data file placed on your hard drive by a web page server. It is essentially your access card, and cannot be executed as code or deliver viruses. It is uniquely yours and can only be read by the server that gave it to you.
  • Cookies cannot be used by themselves to identify you.
  • The purpose of a basic cookie is to tell the server that you returned to that web page or have items in your basket. Without cookies, websites and their servers have no memory. A cookie, like a key, enables swift passage from one place to the next.
  • Without a cookie every time you open a new web page the server where that page is stored will treat you like a completely new visitor.
  • More recently, cookies have also been used to collect information about the user which allows a profile of their preferences and interests to be created so that they can be served with interest-based rather than generic information about available goods and services.

4.4.2. How do Cookies help The Wine Society?

Cookies allow our website to function effectively. Cookies also help us to arrange content to match your preferred interests more quickly. We can learn what information is important to our visitors, and what isn't.

4.4.3. How does The Wine Society use cookies?

The Wine Society does not accept advertising from third parties and therefore, as a rule, does not serve third-party cookies. Exceptions to this include performance/analytical cookies (see below), used anonymously to improve the way our website works, the provision of personalised recommendations, and occasions when we may team up with suppliers to offer special discounts on goods or services.

The Society uses technology to track the patterns of behaviour of visitors to our site.

4.4.4. What type of cookies does The Wine Society use?

We use the following three types of cookies:

4.4.4.1. Strictly Necessary Cookies
These cookies are required for the operation of our website, enabling you to move around the website and use its features, such as accessing secure areas of the website. Without these cookies, services like shopping baskets or e-billing cannot be provided. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Authentication Cookie and Anonymous Cookie
    These cookies remember that you are logged in to your account – without them, the website would repeatedly request your login details with each new page you visit during your time on our website. They are removed once your session has ended.
  • Session Cookie
    These cookies are used to remember who you are as you use our site: without them, the website would be unable to tell the difference between you and another Wine Society member and facilities such as your basket and the checkout process would therefore not be able to function. They too are removed once your session has ended.

4.4.4.2. Functionality & Targeting/Tracking Cookies
These cookies are used to recognise you when you return to our website and to provide enhanced features. This allows us to personalise our content for you. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Unique User Cookie
    This cookie is used to:
    • store your share number in order to identify that you have visited the website before. Without this cookie, we would be unable to tell whether you are a member or not.
    • record your visit to the website, the pages you have visited and the links you have followed. We use this information to make our website, the content displayed on it and direct marketing communications we may send to you or contact you about more relevant to your interests.
    • This cookie expires after 13 months.
  • Peerius Cookies
    These third-party cookies are used to provide you with personalised recommendations based on your purchase and browsing history. They expire within 4 hours of your visit.

4.4.4.3. Performance/analytical cookies
These cookies collect information about how visitors use a website, for instance which pages visitors go to most often, and if they get error messages from web pages. These cookies don't collect information which identifies a visitor. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. It is only used to improve how a website works. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Google Analytics Cookies
    These are third-party cookies to enable Google Analytics to monitor website traffic. All information is recorded anonymously. Using Google Analytics allows The Society to better understand how members use our site and monitor website traffic.

4.4.4.4. Authentication Cookie
In order for us to ensure that your data remains secure it is necessary for us to verify that your session is authentic (i.e. it has not been compromised by a malicious user). We do this by storing an otherwise meaningless unique ID in a cookie for the duration of your visit. No personal information can be gained from this cookie.

4.4.5. How do you turn cookies off?

All modern browsers allow you to modify your cookie settings so that all cookies, or those types which are not acceptable to you, are blocked. However, please note that this may affect the successful functioning of the site, particularly if you block all cookies, including essential cookies. For example, In Internet Explorer, go to the Tools Menu, then go to Internet Options, then go to Privacy. Here you can change the rules your browser uses to accept cookies. You can find out more in the public sources mentioned below.

4.4.6. Learn more about cookies

4.4.7. Changes to our cookie policy

Any changes we may make to our cookie policy in the future will be posted on the website and, where appropriate, notified to you by email. Please check back frequently to see any updates and changes to our cookie policy.