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Linguine with Braised Garlic and Balsamic Vinegar

Olive oil, garlic, balsamic vinegar -- what could be more Italian? The garlic can be braised up to 8 hours ahead. Set it aside, covered, at room temperature. The dish is best finished and eaten right away. In the summer, add one cup coarsely chopped basil leaves to the braised garlic a few seconds before tossing with the pasta.

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 cloves garlic, cut into 1/4-inch dice
6 quarts salted water
1 pound dried linguine
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or unsalted butter
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 to 1 1/2 cups (4 to 6 ounces) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
8 to 10 teaspoons artisan-made or high-quality commercial balsamic vinegar (if using commercial, blend in 1 teaspoon brown sugar)

In a large heavy skillet, heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and lower the heat to the lowest possible setting. Cook, covered, 5 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking over the lowest possible heat 8 minutes, or until the garlic is barely colored to pale brown and tender. Stir it frequently with a wooden spatula. Do not let the garlic turn medium to dark brown, as it will be bitter.

Warm a serving bowl or shallow soup dishes in a low oven. As the garlic braises, bring the salted water to a boil and drop in the pasta. Stir occasionally. Taste for doneness, making sure the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite.

Spoon about 3 tablespoons of the cooking water into the cooked garlic just before draining the pasta. Then drain the pasta in a colander. Remove the garlic from the heat and add it to the hot drained pasta. Add the additional 3 tablespoons of olive oil or butter (the fresh taste of the uncooked oil or butter brightens the dish) and toss. Season with salt and pepper. Now toss with all of the cheese. Turn into the heated serving bowl. As you serve the pasta, sprinkle each plateful with a teaspoon or so of the vinegar. Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer, 4 to 6 as a main dish.

"The Splendid Table" by Lynne Rossetto Kasper

Thursday, March 29, 2001

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