Time for another poetic recipe from the pages of The Spring Ghazals, wouldn’t you say?
I remember the first time I heard about Pasta Alleluia. I was living in San Francisco & hanging out one day with old poebiz pal Jonah Winter. What was the context of the conversation? It may have had to do with eating well on the cheap. Needless to say, the name “Pasta Alleluia” really stuck in my mind.
It turns on that the name Pasta Alleluia actually derives from the Leone family—Robert Frost's Banjo readers know L.E. Leone—& it's a Leone-ism for pasta aglio é olio, which as you may know is pasta with garlic & olive oil. As such, it’s a very basic but very tasty dish; & as L.E. Leone's brother, Chris Leone has described in some detail to me, it can be expanded upon with ingredients ranging from humble to exotic. In the years that I’ve experimented with Pasta Alleluia, I’ve come up with the following:
About 1/3 cup of good olive oil: Sorry, but most of the measurements/quantities for this recipe are pretty impressionistic.
Several cloves of garlic, minced: I’ve used as many as 7-8 cloves of garlic, but Eberle & I love the stuff. Still, I wouldn’t cut that down too much, since the infusion of aglio in the olio is the basis of the whole recipe.
Ground black pepper to taste: Don’t skimp
A pinch or so of salt: Remember—the olives are salty!
About a cup of chopped mushrooms: or perhaps a tad more. We’ve used the generic store-bought mushrooms, & fresh morels & the mini portabellas, & they’re all good.
Around two dozen olives, pitted & halved: Kalamatas are the best, but any old olive will do (except I avoid the canned variety).
Roughly 1/4 cup of roasted pine nuts
About a teaspoon of oregano
About a tablespoon of basil
1 lb. of spaghetti (or linguini)
That’s it—& remember: everything after the salt (except the pasta of course!) is optional, & you could substitute any number of items; sun-dried tomatoes would be wonderful, for instance.
Heat the oil on medium & then add the minced garlic (I also reduce the heat a bit when I add the garlic). Sauté the garlic for a few minutes until it’s golden, then remove the garlic from the oil using a slotted spoon. I keep the garlic aside in a small dish, because I add it back in again at the very end, but this isn’t absolutely necessary. Then, add black pepper, salt & the chopped mushrooms; sauté the mushrooms for several minutes, then add the olives & the oregano. You could also add the basil now if you’re using dried basil. If you’re using fresh basil, wait until just before serving. Again, sauté for several minutes, then add the pine nuts. Throughout this process, I use a medium low heat. After I add the pine nuts, I turn the heat down & cover.
This sort of oil-based sauce doesn’t like a long cooking time, so by now you should have your water boiling & your pasta ready to cook. Cook your spaghetti as you usually would, & when there’s a couple of minutes left for the pasta add the garlic back in (if you wish). Also add the fresh basil right before tossing the pasta & the sauce. Drain the pasta, & toss it with the oil sauce.
Buon appetito! My poem “Pasta Alleluia” follows in the next post.