Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Pasta Alleluia – the Recipe

A couple of folks seemed intrigued by my mention of a dish called “Pasta Alleluia” last Sunday, & so I decided to make a batch for Eberle & I, & to post the recipe here. It’s been a little while since our last foodie post, but I hope you’ve come with a good appetite!

Of course, I mentioned “Pasta Alleluia” in the context of Original Poetry Sunday, which means it also exists as a poem. I’d thought about including that with the recipe, but instead I’m going to post it for the next Original Poetry Sunday, so look for it then.

I remember the first time I heard about Pasta Alleluia. I was living in San Francisco & hanging out one day with old poebiz pal Jonah Winter. Jonah was living in a house full of the wonderful Leone family & also playing in Ed’s Redeeming Qualities with Dani Leone (Jonah being a multiple musical threat on accordion, mandolin, clarinet, pennywhistle, vocals & cardboard drum). I don’t remember the context of the conversation really clearly, tho it may well have had to do with eating well on the cheap. Needless to say, the name “Pasta Alleluia” really stuck in my mind.

It turns on that Pasta Alleluia is a Leone-ism for pasta aglio é olio, which as you may know is pasta with garlic & olive o
il. As such, it’s a very basic but very tasty dish; & as Chris Leone has described in some detail to me, it can be expanded upon with ingredients ranging from humble to exotic. In the years that I’ve experimented with Pasta Alleluia, I’ve come up with the following:

About 1/3 cup of good extra virgin olive oil: Sorry, but most of the measurements/quantities for this recipe are pretty impressionistic.
Several cloves of
garlic, minced: I’ve used as many as 7-8 cloves of garlic, but Eberle & I love the stuff. Still, I wouldn’t cut that down too much, since the infusion of aglio in the olio is the basis of the whole recipe.
Ground black pepper to taste: Don’t skimp
A pinch or so of salt: Remember—the olives are salty!

About a cup of chopped mushrooms: Or perhaps a tad more. We’ve used the generic store-bought mushrooms, & fresh morels & the mini portabellas, & they’re all good.
Around two dozen olives, pitted & halved: Kalamatas are the best, but any old olive will do (except I avoid the canned variety).
Roughly 1/4 cup of roast
ed pine nuts
About a teaspoon of oregano
About a tablespoon of basil
1 lb. of spaghetti (or linguini)

That’s it—& remember: everything after the salt (except the pasta of course!) is optional, & you could substitute any number of items; sun-dried tomatoes would be wonderful, for instance.

Heat the oil on medium & then add the minced garlic (I also reduce the heat a
bit when I add the garlic). Sauté the garlic for a few minutes until it’s golden, then remove the garlic from the oil using a slotted spoon. I keep the garlic aside in a small dish, because I add it back in again at the very end, but this isn’t absolutely necessary. Then, add black pepper, salt & the chopped mushrooms; sauté the mushrooms for several minutes, then add the olives & the oregano. You could also add the basil now if you’re using dried basil. If you’re using fresh basil, wait until just before serving. Again, sauté for several minutes, then add the pine nuts. Throughout this process, I use a medium low heat. After I add the pine nuts, I turn the heat down & cover.

This sort of oil-based sauce doesn’t like a long cooking time, so by now yo
u should have your water boiling & your pasta ready to cook. Cook your spaghetti as you usually would, & when there’s a couple of minutes left for the pasta add the garlic back in (if you wish). You could also add the fresh basil. Drain the pasta, & toss it with the oil sauce.

That’s it—of course a salad is de rigueur with this. Buon appetito!


  1. This looks scrum-dilly! A perfect light summer dish. Thanks for the recipe, John.

  2. Thanks Willow-- yes, this is good summer fare!

  3. Spunds wonderful. On store-bought mushrooms, Andrew Weil prefers the brown to the white ones for health reasons.

  4. My, my but this looks very similar to our dinner tonight. I sauteed mushrooms, yellow & zucchini squash & tomatoes fresh from the garden with oregano as seasoning. Pasta was the whole wheat variety. Then sauteed tilapia to serve atop the pasta dish. Yummy!

  5. Hi ArtSparker & Lizzy

    ArSparker: Thanks for the mushroom tip-- that makes sense.

    Lizzy: That meal sounds great!

  6. Buon Appetito! Now I have to have pasta again tomorrow. (The mere suggestion and I'm off!)

    Thanks for the recipe. You can't beat a good Italian olive oil!


  7. Thanks for this recipe. I love recipes that allow for such variation. My youngest son married his sweetheart days before she left for basic training and then moved to Texas where she was stationed about a month before she was deployed to Iraq. I am making a kind of scrapbook cookbook for him and this will be a perfect recipe as it is inexpensive and he can play with it adding or subtracting the optional ingredients. He is a healthy eater so I do know he will use the whole wheat pasta. I will be making it for the rest of us this week. Your blog is the most unique I've come across and I enjoy it very much!

  8. This looks great. I had "pasta alleluia" in Italy and I couldn't believe it. It became one of my favorite dishes. I'll give your recipe a try. Thanks.

  9. Hi Dragonfly Dreamer, Karen & Jen:

    Dragonfly Dreamer: Glad you'll be able to put the recipe to such a good use; that really makes me glad. & thanks for your kind words about the blog!

    Karen: Oh I bet the Italian pasta aglio e olio is goooood!

    Jen: Enjoy!

  10. this sounds delicious, and I can't wait to read the poem. I have a version of this with anchovies which made me like them... I could never understand anchovies on pizza, but on pasta, yes!

    I will make this recipe soon, and play my favorite Leonard Cohen song while I do. :)


  11. Hi René:

    Yes, anchovies would be a good variation on this-- like the olives, they add saltiness. & I agree with you 100% about anchovies on pizza-- just wrong.

    The Leonard Cohen reference is funny. Hope you enjoy it!


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