This oil forms the basis of the simple but flavorful tomato sauce featured in Andrew Carmellini’s book Urban Italian. Yield: 1 1⁄4 cups infused oil.
1 head garlic
1 1⁄4 cups olive oil
1 cup packed basil leaves, washed, with stems still on
1 tsp red pepper flakes
Cut the top off the garlic head so the skin stays on but the tops of the cloves are exposed. Combine garlic, oil, basil and red pepper flakes in a small pot over medium heat and bring to a simmer. As soon as you hear the basil crackle, take the mixture off the heat and set aside.
At this point, Carmellini strains everything out of the oil and pours it into a bunch of tomatoes (5 pounds) simmering with salt (1 teaspoon). The oil is wonderful that way, but you can also leave everything in and serve the oil by itself as a dip. Or, purée the whole mixture to use as a condiment.
If you don’t strain the oil, refrigerate the surplus, because infused oils can support the growth of botulism. Use within 3 days.
Want the important basics on olive oil? Check out All About Olive Oil: Cooking, Tasting and Buying.
Photo by Tim Nauman: Use this infused oil as a condiment, a dip for bread, or an ingredient in other recipes.