Sweet and unique in flavor, roasted garlic enhances a simple dish of pasta.
I don’t think there is anyone of any age in our family who doesn’t love roasted garlic. Often, we pop a whole head in the oven to roast and add the tender, sweet flesh to mashed potatoes, or smear it on a baguette.
One of the best dishes I’ve ever had was a simple spaghetti with whole roasted garlic cloves and roasted garlic sauce at Savino’s in Manchester, Vt. The restaurant closed many years ago, and I never managed to coax the recipe from the chef, but the memory of that pasta remained with me and I knew I had to try to duplicate it.
Plenty of garlic!
It’s actually a pretty simple process, but involves three or four heads of garlic! The cloves are cooked stovetop just until tender and browned, and the whole heads are roasted in the oven covered with foil until extremely soft. Both turn out sweet and delicious, but the whole cloves are browned and beautiful, adding that extra browned-garlic flavor to the dish.
A star tops it all off
I used brown rice pasta, regular white button mushrooms, as well as a few beautiful king mushrooms I found at the co-op. They were tender, sweet, and delicious, and I saved them for the top of the finished dish just because they wanted to show off!
In the time it takes to cook the pasta, you can have dinner!
Spaghetti with Roasted Garlic Cloves and Mushrooms
4 heads of garlic
1/4 cup or so of extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. spaghetti of choice
1 lb. mushrooms, mixed varieties if possible, sliced
2 shallots, sliced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Zest and juice of one lemon
1/3 cup chopped flat-leafed parsley
For the roasted garlic:
Preheat your oven to 450.
Cut the very top off two heads of the garlic. Place on a piece of aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil. Fold up the foil, and put in the oven for 20 minutes, or until a quick check indicates the garlic heads are really soft.
Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees. Let the garlic heads cool, then squeeze the pulp out of the heads into a small bowl, mash, and set aside.
Separate the cloves from the other two heads of garlic and peel them.The easiest way to do this is to nip off the root end of each garlic clove an place in a metal bowl. Using another bowl of similar size, place the second one over the other, like a cover, hold on to the sides of both, and shake vigorously for a minute. Remove any cloves that are peeled, and shake until until all are free of their skins.
Resist the urge to buy jars of already peeled garlic. They are often imported from China and packed under questionable conditions. Plus, it has been my experience that pre-peeled garlic simply has an odd flavor that is not terribly pleasant.
Prep your vegetables:
Clean mushrooms with a damp towel and slice. Peel and slice the shallots.
Zest and juice lemon, chop parsley, and mix the two together and set aside for last.
For the dish:
Bring a large pot of water to boil, salt it, and drop the pasta.
Heat a large sauté pan over medium high and add the garlic cloves an oil. Let cook until the garlic has softened and they are browned. Remove to a towel to drain, and tent.
Add the shallots and mushrooms and cook until they are tender and starting to brown. Add the pepper flakes and reserved mashed garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Reserve a few mushrooms if you like for final presentation, but it is not necessary.
Reserve a cup of the pasta water and drain spaghetti, adding it all to the pan at once. Stir in the lemon zest and juice, and parsley. Mix up things well, and add a little of the pasta water to loosen it up if necessary. Season.
Turn out onto a large platter and top with the reserved garlic cloves, and a little more parsley. I served this with sugar snap peas, but you can use whatever vegetable inspires you.
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