Jul 06 2009

Fast Food My Way:
One-Skillet Garlic Pasta

 
Everyone loves pasta, and it’s a good meal choice for active folks. Why? Because pasta packs a carbohydrate punch, refueling your body’s glycogen stores that are spent during exercise while making you feel full and satisfied. But boiling a big pot of water to cook pasta doesn’t always appeal, not when you’re in a hurry to eat and just want something simple. The solution is to make pasta with the sauce in one cooking vessel.

Last week I described how to make pesto pasta in a skillet, and that was enjoyed by so many people that I’ll show how to make spaghetti and garlic sauce using the same one-skillet method. This meal will serve two or three people as a main dish, and up to six as a side dish.

This meal comes together quickly, so have all the ingredients ready before beginning to cook:

  • • 1/2 pound spaghetti
  • • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • • 6-12 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
  • • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • • water
  • • salt and ground black pepper
  • • grated parmesan (optional)
  • • pine nuts or walnut pieces (optional)

I used a 10-inch skillet for this demonstration, but for a larger quantity of spaghetti (the recipe can be doubled) use a 12-inch sauté pan. The pasta strands should lie flat within the skillet, so grasp a “log” of spaghetti in both fists and break the strands in half, but be careful—breaking pasta strands can send fragments shooting across the room.

With your mise en place arrayed nearby, heat the oil and pasta together in the skillet set over high heat:

 

Meal in the Making

 
The goal is to cook the garlic without letting it burn. I like my garlic browned and don’t mind a few burned pieces, but for milder flavor cook the cloves only to the light golden brown stage. At that point, reduce the heat to medium and sprinkle cornstarch over the oil and garlic. Use a fork to blend it, and then immediately and carefully pour in a cup of water, blending as you pour.

 

Meal in the Making

 
Distribute the pasta evenly in the skillet:

 

Meal in the Making

 
Now add additional water so that most of the pasta strands are covered in liquid:

 

Meal in the Making

 
Raise the heat to high and bring the sauce to a rapid simmer. Cover the pan partially to accelerate the cooking process, but don’t let your attention be drawn away for long, because the spaghetti absorbs sauce quickly. If the sauce is nearly all absorbed and the pasta still crunchy in the middle, add more water, half a cup at a time:

 

Meal in the Making

 
What you want is for the pasta to be cooked al dente and bathed in a garlic sauce that’s creamy in consistency, like this:

 

Meal in the Making

 
Once the pasta and sauce is cooked, remove it from the heat right away and season it with salt (I prefer coarse salt) and freshly ground black pepper. Serve with with grated Parmesan and a sprinkle of pine nuts if you like:

 

Garlic Skillet Pasta

 
Add salad and bread for a delicious meal that’s ready inside 20 minutes. That’s my kind of fast food!

 
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