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Garlic is a main seasoning in Italian cooking. Part of the allium family – along with chives, leeks, onions and several hundred species of garden flower – garlic is revered the world over for its sulfuric superpower. That pungent scent and flavour that mellows with heat is unparalleled. Fairly simple to grow, to store, and to play with, garlic is a kitchen essential whether you’re a commercial chef or trying something you saw on Pinterest.

Eaten raw, the sharp, rich flavour stands out which means a little can go a long way. Add too much and it takes over, but just a little bit and the complementary flavour it adds to a savoury dish is sensational. As it cooks the flavour sweetens up, but never becomes dull, which means you can add a little (or a whole lot) more to sauces, soups, and stir fry. Basically, anything you cook that starts with an “S”. We’re kidding! Roast chicken does not start with “S” and including garlic in your bed of vegetables under your chicken is fantastic.

You can buy garlic fresh, frozen, jarred, freeze-dried or powdered. Jarred or dried are pretty easy to use, they’re ready to go; just take a peek at any instructions on the packaging. Fresh garlic needs to be peeled, a sticky mess that goes best if you separate the cloves and give them a smack with the flat side of a knife – mind the edge! There are also dozens of gadgets out there to help you up, and most of them work.

How small you slice and dice your fresh cloves depends on what you’re making and how much of a starring role you want the garlic flavour to play. The more you cut garlic cloves the stronger flavour they release; this is a defense mechanism of the plant to deter critters from coming back for more. If you’re using raw garlic, cut it down to a very small size and consider using a garlic press. Add small amounts to your dish and taste test as you Garlicgo – take a sniff of some coffee beans to clear senses before your test. You can always add more later, but it’s very difficult (a.k.a. impossible) to cover up raw garlic if you’ve used a heavy hand. And despite what some may say, you really can add too much.

Heat creates a chemical change in garlic that lulls that bold flavour, making it a versatile ingredient, much like its cousin, the onion. Of course you can add chopped or pressed garlic to your pasta sauces; all of them! But you can also add garlic – in any form – to soups! Roasting garlic is delectable; add it to the aforementioned bed of vegetables when you’re roasting chicken, or roast a whole bulb and use it like a condiment.

Cooking with garlic is a lot of work. National Pasta is here to save your day! We have a collection of pre-made sauces and entire meals featuring the perfect amount of garlic ready for you to pick up on your way home tonight. Stop by in Cambridge at 25 Struck Court Unit 3 and Guelph at 715 Wellingston St. W.

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