This pasta has gone under a lot of different names, “anti-SARS”, “anti-bird-flu”, and my personal favourite, the Mafiosa. What they all have in common is a boat-load of garlic in them. It was first put together by an Italian chef I worked with in Melbourne. And it’s a cracker. Kept me out of colds for an entire season.

The ingredients are simple, and well under $15 for two people. I haven’t got exact prices because it’s all stuff I had in the pantry already. And that’s all of it. No matter what your income, this is probably one of the cheapest meals you can make.

What I have is some pasta, any kind at all. Just whatever you have lying around the house.

Some parmesan cheese, not a heck of a lot. Some parsley (high in vitamin C).

All the garlic we had.

About 150g of our own marinated olives (I’ll post on marinating your own olives next time I have to. We’ve been rolling through 3kg from the Mediterranean Warehouse since before Christmas. Total price? $28).

Some sun-dried tomatoes (about 50g).

And, some chilli powder (but fresh chillis are better).

So why’s this meal so cheap?! No meat.

The first thing to do is chop the parsley. Trim the stems off, then gather it into a tight bunch. Being careful of fingers, slice the bunch as closely as you can.

Then, place a hand on one end of the knife and chop all the air out of it, until it’s very finely chopped. The trick in this instance is to ensure that the parsley is a little dry. Really fresh parsley is too juicy and sticks to the knife, the board, itself…

Once it’s reasonably finely chopped, cut up the sun-dried (or semi-dried) tomatoes. What I didn’t know about these tomatoes when I bought them is how damn dry they are. They ended up being just ever so slightly chewy. Actually… really damn chewy. Almost beef jerky chewy. If anyone has a recipe for marinating and softening them, please let me know.

And the fun bit, peeling and chopping the garlic. Cut the tops off the cloves, then press them lightly with the side of the knife. This should allow you to take the skins off easily. Then, slice them roughly.

You’re aiming for at very least a tablespoon of garlic. Sounds like a lot?

It is.

Once you’ve got all your ingredients together you’re away. Put two tablespoons or thereabouts of decent olive oil, the best you can afford, into a frying pan and switch the element onto a low-medium heat. The idea is to very lightly fry the garlic, just so that it infuses the oil.

If you have any (we didn’t), add a small knob of butter as well. Not too much. It makes the dish a tiny bit richer, and stops the oil burning the garlic if your heat if right.

While you’re doing that, a pot of salted water for the pasta should be heating to a boil, and you want to grind your black pepper. You do have a wee mortar and pestle, aeh?

Your olives and sun-dried tomatoes have been sitting there diligently, and you can chuck them into the pan not long after the garlic, along with your red and black peppers. You probably won’t need salt. The olives have a lot already. Just stir the lot and allow the ingredients to heat through.

Again, do not fry the crap out of this dish.

When you put the olives and tomatoes into the dish, put your pasta on. When it’s al dente then dish has probably warmed enough. Bring the pasta out with a pasta spoon (or strain it), and all it to the pan. Then, add the parsley (bet you’d forgotten about that, hadn’t you?)

At this stage you should have turned off all the heat. The pan and the dish will do the rest. Once your parsley is in the dish, add a little, but not too much parmesan. Again, this just enriches the dish a little. You don’t need “American pizza” quantities of cheese to make something gooderer.

Finally, mix the whole lot together.

You want to get in there with some tongs and really mix the lot around. Make sure that the pasta soaks up as much of the residual oil as possible, and lifts all the little bits of garlic off the bottom of the pan.

This is a simple but extremely delicious dish that’s hard to get wrong, and 100% vegetarian.

Unless you add bacon, which I very nearly did…

So, serve into a bowl with some parmesan to garnish, and enjoy!

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