Kitchen Techniques: Toasting Garlic and Salting Pasta Water

rigatoni with whole tomatoes and toasted garlic

I learned an important technique from watching “The Chef Show” Netflix series–how to toast garlic.

This is invaluable for pasta dishes.

I’ve never gotten this right before, and watching Roy Choi and Jon Favreau do this on screen really helped me nail this in my own kitchen.

The process is simple: mince some garlic cloves (I recommend half a head of garlic for a big pasta dish), create a little lake of olive oil in a large sauce pan, and cook the garlic in the olive oil. The key is to be 100% present at the stove as you do this. You have to constantly stir the garlic around in the olive oil so that you notice the moment it turns golden brown. If you go past that point, the garlic will turn black and the burnt taste will ruin your dish.

Before you toast the garlic, your pasta should already be cooked so that when you notice the garlic is toasted, you can immediately add the pasta to the pan.

To complete the dish, add a can of whole tomatoes and black pepper, red chili flakes and parmesan to taste and mix thoroughly with the pasta in the pan. Garnish with fresh basil.

If you toast the garlic right, you will barely need parmesan; the garlicky olive oil should coat the pasta with plenty of umami.

As for boiling the pasta, that process is equally as important as toasting the garlic correctly. “The Chef Show” reminded me that salting the pasta water properly is essential.

Previously, I had not been salting pasta water enough, resulting in having to compensate for lack of flavor in the pasta with an excess of parmesan.

I learned not to be shy with the salt–use tablespoons instead of pinches. You really want the pasta to absorb the salt because that’s a major element of umami.

Combined with the flavor from the garlicky olive oil, salting your pasta well during the boiling process will create a perfect, incredibly satisfying dish.