An Unexpected Recipe: Garlic Pepper Pasta with Fresh Herbs

linguine with garlic pepper sauce

I have two kinds of cookbooks on my shelf: the ones I use (few), and the ones I don’t (many).  Oh sure, I look at them all, admiring the pretty pictures, imagining fantasy dinner parties.  But when I’m looking for real inspiration, I have a few standbys.  The Joy of Cooking, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, Paris Sweets and my signed copy of Simply Ming are my go-to favorites. Eclectic certainly, but this covers all the bases.  Classic basics, healthy staples, quality desserts, and creative, unexpected flavors.

fresh herbsFlipping through Simply Ming a few weeks ago, looking for inspiration for the bok choy in my CSA share, I found Black Pepper Garlic Sauce.  After a wonderful stir-fry, loosely based on Simply Ming’s Melted Black Pepper and Garlic Napa Cabbage, I still had a full cup of the sauce leftover.  You see, this fantastically inventive cookbook is based around a series of condiments.  Chef Ming Tsai creates lovely fusion dishes with these sauces and salsas and sambals.  And best of all, in the margins, he offers even more simple suggestions.  Of course, all of these condiment recipes make very big batches. The idea is that you can keep them in the fridge for a week or two, making the actual preparation of final dishes really quick and easy.  Hence the extra cup of sauce.

I ruled out the Black Pepper Garlic Lobster from Ming Tsai’s restaurant Blue Ginger because of Jeff’s seafood allergy, but there in the margin was an intriguing suggestion: pasta.  Simply toss the sauce with pasta.  Now that’s my kind of weeknight meal – easy, fast, and flavorful.

garlic and scallionsWith the herb plants on my windowsill exploding with fragrant leaves, I decided to doctor up my quick pasta dish.  And the flavors of the purple basil and parsley were wonderfully fresh with the sweet garlic and tangy pepper.  I’ve since reworked the sauce just a bit, making just enough for a pound of pasta, and changing up the proportions a little.  The Asian fish sauce may sound a bit off-putting here, but trust me, it is the secret to making this sauce special – don’t skip it.  It lends just a very faint flavor of the sea, a bit like linguine with clam sauce (but no clams).  Actually, adding in a few steamed littleneck clams might not be a bad idea… that is, unless your husband is allergic to shellfish.  And in case you find ourself with extra sauce, it makes a wonderful warm potato salad too.

Garlic Pepper Pasta with Fresh Herbs

Sauce adapted from Simply Ming by Ming Tsai and Arthur Boehm

Serves 6

1 pound linguine

3 tablespoons roughly chopped garlic

1/2 cup chopped scallions

1 teaspoon canola oil

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup chicken stock

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon fish sauce

3 tablespoons softened butter

1 cup chopped fresh spinach

1/2 cup chopped fresh purple basil (or regular basil)

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente.  Meanwhile, saute the garlic and scallion in oil over medium heat for two minutes.  Add the pepper, wine, stock, lemon juice, and fish sauce.  Simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Transfer the garlic mixture to a blender and whir until smooth.  Add the butter and blend well to combine completely.  Return the sauce to the pan over low heat.  Add the drained pasta, spinach, basil and parsley and toss all to combine well and wilt the greens and herbs. Sprinkle with cheese and serve hot.

garlic black pepper pasta


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26 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I, too, am fond on Ming Tsai. Your pasta sounds inspired and I’ve bookmarked it to try when things around here quiet down. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings…Mary

  2. Such a lovely pasta! Love the fresh herbs!

  3. I love my copy of the Joy of Cooking too…! This sauce looks great, and I love the idea of pairing it with potatoes. I certainly am a fan of any food that can multitask! Oh and I’m so jealous of your CSA…!

    • Oh yes, multitasking foods are the best! And so are CSAs!

  4. This is exactly the kind of versatile recipe that I love. Did you use regular parsley or italian flat-leaf?

    • I used Italian flat leaf. I think you could be fine with regular parsley, though, if that’s what you have.

  5. We are cookbook soulmates! I LOVE Joy of Cooking and Ming Tsai! And you already know I’m a huge fan of fast and delicious weeknight meals 🙂

  6. This sounds absolutely delicious! BUT, I can’t stop thinking about the Black Pepper Garlic Lobster…I must try that! And ya know, I’ve never cooking anything fro Ming Tsai, I think it’s about time I start =)

    • The picture in the book makes the lobster look AMAZING. I’m kind of leaning toward making an excuse to just go to Blue Ginger and have the real thing!

      • I’ll be home a week from tomorrow. I’ve alsways wanted to go to Blue Ginger. Want to go one night? I’ll be there from the 28-4.
        Let me know.

  7. What a lovely pasta dish. I don’t have any of Ming’s cookbooks, however I really enjoy his program. He’s a master at food.

  8. Looks like a perfect pasta dish!

  9. I can totally relate: the cookbooks are used a few; that is why I have been very cautious lately, only buying the ones that I am certain will be useful!
    I used to watch Ming Tsai and liked him (if it is the same guy) and I love this sauce and the idea behind it. After all, we are all on a time crunch and if we can cook once and recycle it in a clever way, why not? I agree with you, a little shellfish or even tuna in a can, that’s another idea for it.

    • I wish I could be cautious with my cookbook-buying – but I’m an addict! I can’t resist, even if I know I will rarely use them.

  10. What a delicious pasta with the fresh herbs and spinach! The sauce sounds rich and flavorful too. Great comfort food!

  11. That so fragrant and flavorful recipe Katie. Garlic and pasta are one of my favorite pairs, and paring them with fresh herbs from your garden makes the experience even more enjoyable.

  12. I love Ming Tsai, I have a great potstickers recipe from him that we always your recipe..loving the purple basil


  13. What a great summer pasta dish, Katie. Don’t you love when there are “extras” in the fridge that can be whipped up into a quick meal? And nothing does that better than pasta – yum! I have “Simply Ming,” too, and I do like it a lot. Anything with fresh herbs is always better. 🙂

  14. This type of pasta is my favorite in summer time; sometimes, I add black olives as my husband love them. And as regards cookbooks, I use just a few, like you. ..

    • Adding olives here is a great idea!

  15. This is such an interesting mix of Asian and Italian! I love the fusion of cultures…definitely worth tasting!

  16. This looks terrific and I love the purple basil! 🙂

  17. Dear Katie – I could totally relate when you said the books you use (few) and the books you don’t (many)!!! What a hoot!!!

    I also love how you used Ming’s recipe and improvised. The pasta is lovely – what a great way to use black pepper & garlic sauce with fresh greens.


    Ciao, Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  18. What a beautiful pasta dish. I live the ingredients you’ve used. It’s like I can calmest taste it 🙂

  19. I grow my own herbs, too. They make everything taste so much better, transform simple dish into something delicious and special!

  20. what a great pasta dish!

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