Ever since trying Aglio e Olio at Aloy’s in Poughkeepsie, New York, decades ago, it’s been a favorite. Here’s how to make this easy
Deep down the rabbit hole, I fell, through layers of memories, hopes and dreams. Deep into the past, I went, mentally walking through my childhood and teen years. And in those moments, I could practically taste my personal history.
It all started with a simple question posed on the book of the faces to those of us who grew up in and around Poughkeepsie, New York: “For all of you that have moved away from Poughkeepsie: when you come back to visit, what is the first thing you want to get to eat?”
I should specify that I edited that for punctuation. It’s only right.
As I went to answer — how could I not? — it left me thinking of all the food I grew up with and the area I called home for so long.
“Oh, so many things. A buttered hard roll, an Italian sub, chicken parm from Longobardi’s, pizza (Aloy’s, Sicilian, any and all), Italian cookies from Pastry Garden, fudge from Adam’s …”
Those are the foods and places of my childhood. And so is this pasta — Aglio e Olio, a simple combination of olive oil (lots of olive oil) with garlic cooked in it, tossed with pasta and served with some good salt and pepper. I like to finish it off with some freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
The first time I had this dish was back in Poughkeepsie on an evening that I went out for dinner with my friend’s family. We went to Aloy’s, a Poughkeepsie institution that serves some of the best pasta and pizza around. The restaurant was dark, lit by candlelight, and crowded. Her parents ordered for all of us and we ate family-style.
Growing up in a jarred Ragu and spaghetti household, I didn’t realize pasta could be like this — almost sensual in its nuanced flavors and delicate combination. I fell in love with the pasta, the restaurant, the idea of inviting new flavors and dishes into my life. I think that might be the night I embraced the idea of being an adventurous eater — not that I wasn’t already, just that I wanted to really be going forward.
All in all, this pasta is so simple, so easy to make. So it’s my go-to on busy nights. Or when I am in need of comfort food. Or whenever.
To make this, you begin by cooking the pasta in well-salted boiling water. When it’s just about done — like two minutes left on the timer — you heat the olive oil in a small pan. Add the garlic to the hot oil, give it a stir and then drain the pasta. By the time you’re done, it’s time to pour the oil over, toss it together and season it with salt and pepper.
This takes less than 10 minutes to cook (plus however it takes to boil the water). It doesn’t get much more quick and easy than that.
And I guess it should go without saying that I miss Poughkeepsie. I have for a long time. Honestly, I don’t know that I ever really intended to move away from there. But my family all left or passed on and life took me other places.
When I chose to move to Bangor, it was an easy decision because it felt so much like the place that had been my home.
At the same time, I am not naive enough to think that the place I grew up in hasn’t changed. It has, dramatically. And for that reason, I don’t know that I can ever really go home again — except in my memories and through my food.
- ½ lb angel hair pasta, cooked
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp fresh chopped basil or parsley (optional)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (optional)
Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil on the stove. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions.
When the pasta is two minutes away from being done, heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Stir in the minced garlic and cook, stirring frequently until fragrant and just beginning to hint at golden brown -- 1-2 minutes at most.
Meanwhile, drain the pasta. Immediately pour the oil over the pasta and toss to combine. Sprinkle with herbs (if using), salt and pepper and toss again. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
Dust with cheese (if using). Serve.