Pasta with Fresh Herbs

from Food & Wine

This dish of fresh herbs is new southern cooking at its best; dishes such as this one originated in southern Italy, but are at home in today's South, where kitchen gardens are enjoying a popular revival. Many herbs and greens winter well in the Deep South --parsley, sage, oregano, thyme, rosemary, mitsuba (Japanese parsley), lavender, lovage, sorrel, arugula, and marjoram, to name a few. The more delicate ones such as basil are added just as soon as the mint starts poking up through the ground in early spring. This bright pasta dish is utter simplicity to make.

You can bolster this dish with grated bread crumbs or pine nuts, and you can use whatever combination of herbs you like; but for a southern flavor, be sure to include some mint. A favored combination of mine includes the leaves stripped from 4 stems of basil, 4 of mint, 2 of oregano, 2 of marjoram, 3 of thyme, and 4 of parsley. I also add several leaves of arugula, lovage, and sage.

You can also use the pasta of your choice in this dish, but the pasta from Apulia in southern Italy is the best; those with ribs (such as penne rigate) will hold the olive oil better than smooth noodles.

Serves 4

1 pound dried pasta
4 peeled garlic cloves
2 cups fresh herb leaves (see text above)
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly grated grana, pecorino, or Parmesan cheese, about ½ cup
Freshly grated black pepper

1. Cook the pasta in a large quantity of rapidly boiling salted water until cooked al dente; do not overcook. While the water is boiling, place the garlic cloves and herb leaves on a cutting board, sprinkle with salt, and chop them with a knife until uniformly minced.
2. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat to warm. Just before the pasta finishes cooking, dump the herb and garlic mixture into the skillet to warm through. Drain the pasta well, then remove the herbs from the heat and add the pasta and the grated cheese. Toss well, season to taste with pepper, and serve immediately.