With Valentine's Day safely past, we can turn our attention to the Noble Bulb, which -- believe it or not -- is used for the most part in moderation in Italy; recipes that call for more than a clove are rare, and many that do call for it whole, that it may be fished out and discarded when it has imparted what the cook considers to be sufficient garlicky aromas.
Nor is this state of affairs new; Artusi, writing more than a century ago, says:
"The ancient Romans left garlic to the down and out, while King Alfonse of Castil abhorred it to the point that he would punish anybody who dared appear at court with its odor on his breath. Wiser were the ancient Egyptians, who venerated it as a god, perhaps because they had discovered its medicinal qualities. Indeed, it's said that it provides relief to those suffering from hysteria, promotes the secretion of urine, bolsters the stomach, aids in digestion, and, since it cures worms, is a preventive against endemic and epidemic diseases. When sautéing it, take care lest it overcook, because at that point its flavor becomes quite unpleasant. Many people who are inexperienced in the preparation of foods loathe garlic just because they've smelled it on the breath of those who have eaten it raw or badly prepared. They therefore label it a plebeian seasoning and banish it from their kitchens; this fixation deprives them of tasty, wholesome foods like the following dish, which frequently sets my stomach right when it's upset."
This is a hard sell for something considered quite Italian outside of Italy, and the situation is pretty much the same today: There are a few very garlicky dishes, but for the most part Italians like their garlic to contribute to but not be dominant in their foods.
And what was the dish Artusi was suggesting, you wonder? A simple pomarola sauce for pasta, with several whole cloves of garlic added.
A couple of other dishes in which Garlic is Much More Apparent
- Bagna Caoda: Piemontese Conviviality
- Spaghetti Aglio e Olio: The classic, very quick, and very easy pasta sauce.
- Arista al Latte: Pork loin with garlic and lemon, simmered in milk. Try it!
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