Written by Paola de’Mari of Toscana Mia
Garlic is often touted as a typical ingredient of Italian gastronomy but, ironically, there is no single Italian region that makes such intense use of it. Many of our cooking class students will ask us, “But don’t you use garlic?” Our answer? No, we do not use garlic as much as people expect!
In some recipes, such as bruschetta, garlic is essential, but in many other recipes, garlic is just one small part of the overall flavor.
But in this simple tomato sauce called Aglione, garlic is the star. The traditional recipe calls for a special variety of garlic called Aglione della Valdichiana, which grows four times the size of regular garlic (hence the name aglione, or “big garlic”). This giant allium is not only special because of its enormous size, but also because it has a much more delicate flavor. It’s also sometimes known as “kissing garlic” because it doesn’t contain any aline, and therefore lacks the unpleasant smell.
The best-known recipe with Aglione della Valdichiana is Pici all’Aglione, a thick handmade spaghetti typical of Toscana served with a simple tomato garlic tomato sauce. The traditional recipe calls for just one clove of the aglione. Here we’ve modified the recipe, using additional cloves of standard garlic that you can most elsewhere in the world.
This sauce is almost always paired with pici, but you could also use dried pasta, such as bucatini.
For the sauce:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves (or more)
Dried peperoncino (red chili pepper), crushed
10 ½ ounces (300 grams) of fresh tomatoes (preferably cherry or Pachino tomatoes ), sliced in half
A few drops of red wine vinegar
1 lb (450 grams) pici pasta, for serving
Parmesan or pecorino cheese, for serving
Heat extra virgin olive oil in a skillet on low heat.
Peel the garlic cloves, then smash them using the flat side of a chef’s knife. Add them to the skillet and gently saute, just until they start to take on a golden hue.
Add the crushed dried peperoncino and vinegar.
Finally, add the tomatoes.
Add salt and cook for 10 to 15 minutes until the tomatoes are soft.
Cook the pasta in a pot of salted, boiling water until al dente. Drain and add to the pan with the sauce. Mix well to combine, cooking on low heat, until the pasta is completely coated in the aglione sauce. Serve with a generous grating of parmesan or pecorino cheese.
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cooking Time: 15 Minutes
Total time: 25 Minutes
For the sauce:
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 6 garlic cloves (or more)
- Dried peperoncino (red chili pepper), crushed
- 10 ½ ounces (300 grams) of fresh tomatoes (preferably cherry or Pachino tomatoes ), sliced in half
- A few drops of red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 1 lb (450 grams) pici pasta
- Parmesan or pecorino cheese, for serving
Hand-Stamped Romagnolo Napkins
Toscana Mia is a small team of two Italian sisters: Simonetta and Paola. Since 2002, they have owned and operated Toscana Mia, an Italian cooking and language school based in Florence and Chianti, Tuscany. In addition to their in-person school, they also offer online cooking classes.
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