Reprinted with permission from In the Green Kitchen: Techniques to Learn by Heart by Alice Waters (ClarksonPotter/Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., 2010). Copyright © 2010 by Alice Waters.

Recipe by Lidia Bastianich

2 servings

This dish of Lidia's is what I make for supper when I return home tired and hungry after traveling. I like it very plain, with lots of parsley, but you could spice it up by adding a pinch of dried chile flakes or chopped anchovy, and serving it with grated cheese.

1/3 pound spaghettini
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
8 to 10 branches Italian parsley, stems removed, leaves chopped

1. Bring a generous pot of salted water to a boil over high heat, and stir in the spaghettini. Stir frequently and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but still firm.

2. Meanwhile, put the olive oil and garlic in a saucepan and heat gently until the garlic begins to sizzle and release its fragrance; take care that it does not brown or burn. Add the parsley to the pan along with 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

3. When the pasta is cooked, use a skimmer to lift it out of the water and directly into the pan, or drain it, reserving some of the water, and then add to the pan. Toss the pasta and let it simmer briefly in the sauce to finish cooking and absorb the flavors; add more pasta water if needed to keep the pasta loose and saucy. Taste the pasta for salt, and add more if needed. Serve immediately in warm bowls.

In a simple recipe like this one, the ingredients are everything. Buy the best imported pasta you can (brands like Rustichella, Latini, Setaro, Spinosi and, at more reasonable prices, De Cecco, Del Verde, Geraldo & Nola and Molisana), good olive oil (Moustere Grove from New Zealand, De Verde from Sicily, and the Tuscan Laudemio oils are all excellent but pricey). There is the option of Spectrum's Spanish blend oil which is pretty good. And you'll want nice plump cloves of garlic; at this time of year they're fresh and very fine.

When a recipe calls for a “generous pot of salted water,” think a 6-quart pot for a pound or less of pasta. To prevent sticking, you want plenty of room for the pasta to move about in the briskly boiling water. The water should be salted so it tastes like the sea, and don't bother with olive oil in the water. Pasta sticks when it's cooked in too little water. Always set aside some pasta cooking water to thin out a sauce if needed. As a reminder, set a one cup size measuring cup in your colander to scoop out the water just before draining the pasta in the colander. Stir into the pan as you warm up the sauté. The starch and salt thicken and season simple sautés like this one.