While I would generally go along with the idea that the best thing to go with pasta is whatever you’ve got in the cupboard, a bottle of wine and an appetite, this is one of those specific recipes. I’ve tried (and eaten happily) other vegetables with this sauce, but there is no denying that this lot were made for each other. The recipe for the garlic-parsley oil makes about 500mls, enough for at least ten people, but it’s hard to make less unless you’ve got miniature kitchen equipment. It will keep well in the fridge for a week or so.
FIRST MAKE THE OIL. Make two or more times the recipe if you’ve got the ingredients. Separate the garlic cloves from each other, toss them in a little olive oil and roast them in a low to moderate oven until they are soft and lightly browned. The garlic should now be easy to squeeze from its skin. Put it in a food processor with the parsley and blend to a fairly fine pulp. Pour in the olive oil and blend to get an oil of slightly thick pouring consistency. Season with salt and pepper.
Boil a large pot of water for the pasta, then start cooking the vegetables. Cut the fennel in half lengthways, then again into quarters. Chop these pieces crossways into thin slices. In a heavy pan, warm a little olive oil and cook the fennel gently for about five minutes, then chop the green pepper in the same way and add it to the pan. Continue cooking gently, stirring often, for another five minutes until the vegetables are tender but not soft. Add the olives and cook for just one minute more. Meanwhile cook the pasta in the water, drain it and return it to the pot. Stir in the vegetables and four tablespoons of the garlic-parsley oil and warm it through. Before serving, test for seasoning and flavour, you may want to add more of the oil. A hard, mature sheep’s cheese, grated or shaved, is brilliant with this, though parmesan is more than good enough.
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