When it comes to pasta, I have a weakness for it - especially for pasta with simple, flavorful sauces that don't cover up the pasta too much, but just offer a great addition to it. Olive Oil and Garlic are always great starting points for a sauce that satisfies all of these, one reason I love Spaghetti Aglio e Olio so much.

The addition of balsamic vinegar adds a delicious tanginess to the sauce for a good departure from the basic oil and garlic taste, without getting away from it completely. And being mixed in with so few other ingredients, it gives a great opportunity for the vinegar to show its distinct and wonderful flavor.

This dish is nice and light, and prepared very easily and quickly - about as long as it takes to prepare the pasta, as the other parts can be taken care of during that time. It works well as a side, or just as easily can be a complete meal. Note that this dish is one of those that does place a lot of importance on the quality of the ingredients - the garlic, for example, should not be replaced by garlic from a jar, the parmesan should never be that powdered stuff, and the vinegar - well, you'd probably notice the difference rather easily between the cheaper stuff and the expensive aged vinegar, though it is most definitely not necessary to enjoy the taste. (But then again, as one who's never really had any well aged balsamic vinegar, I might be totally wrong on that count)

Spaghetti with Oil, Garlic, Parmesan, and Balsamic Vinegar

4 cloves garlic
1/3 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1 lb spaghetti (or other long, thin pasta)
1 cup Parmesan, grated
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Bring water to a boil. When the water is boiling, add 1 tablespoon of salt to the water, then add the pasta. Cook until al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, either run the garlic through a garlic press, or mince very fine. Add the garlic and the oil to a small saucepan, and cook on low until the garlic is just golden. (Make sure the garlic doesn't turn brown - as it will become bitter) Remove from heat immediately.

When the pasta is done, drain briefly (pasta should still be noticably damp), and return to the pot. Add the oil mixture, cheese, and vinegar. Stir until well mixed, and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve into warmed bowls.

Note that the parmesan cheese, as it melts, might have a tendency to clump together. It doesn't hurt the dish (unless people argue over who gets the cheese clumps :), but grating it really fine with a rasp will make it melt easier and more evenly. You probably can even reduce the amount of parmesan and still get the flavor.


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