A long time ago, about seven years into my career, I worked as a dietitian in the medical office of Dr. I and his partners, where mostly everyone – professional and support staff alike and the patients too – were of Italian American heritage. I was not.
I had a patient with Anorexia nervosa, a psych condition characterized by a fixation on food and weight, although is really about deeper, difficult emotional issues. Nutrition therapy is an important part of treatment.
Anorexics usually have strange food rituals, such as eating the same food over and over because it feels safe. This patient’s “safe food” was Aglio e Olio [pronounced AH-lyoh ay AW-lyoh], a simple pasta dish that was unknown to me at the time. The patient shared an intimate history. It wouldn’t be right to interrupt. “Aglio e Olio Aglio e Olio Aglio e Olio Aglio e Olio Aglio e Olio….” Follow the bouncing ball. It was all the patient ate.
When the appointment finally ended, I burst out of my office into the common area where my coworkers sat. “Help!” I said, “What the hell is Aglio e Olio??!!”
Here’s a recipe for Spaghetti Aglio E Olio. Eat it with other foods as part of a balanced diet
- 1 pound dried spaghetti
- 1/3 cup good olive oil
- 8 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
- 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a pot large enough to hold the pasta. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Do not overcook. Add the red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds more.
- Boil and drain the pasta.
- Carefully add the reserved pasta-cooking water to the garlic and oil and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt, and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by about a third.
- Add the drained pasta to the garlic sauce and toss. Off the heat, add the parsley and Parmesan and toss well. Rest the pasta for a few minutes. Serve warm.
Your thoughts: Do you have a pasta story to share?