The Unconventional Garlic Cut That Transforms Nancy Silverton's Pasta

Without garlic, some of our most beloved recipes — Caesar salad, garlic bread, and pesto alla Genovese — would taste totally different. The flavorful allium sometimes called the "stinking rose," is in the same family as onions, leeks, and shallots and is enjoyed raw or cooked in dishes from every cuisine. Known for its flavor and smell, the bulb has medicinal benefits used for centuries by earlier civilizations to ward off colds (and vampires), lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, while its antioxidant properties may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and dementia, per Healthline.

While garlic is associated with Italian cuisine in the U.S., Italians have a long-standing love/hate relationship with it. The pungent ingredient is associated with poverty since its strong flavor can mask the absence of better-quality ingredients. According to Taste Cooking, former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi prohibited his staff from eating garlic while working with him to bolster his "successful businessman persona."

Nonetheless, many Italian-American recipes contain garlic. From spaghetti aglio e olio (spaghetti with garlic and oil) to fancier dishes like shrimp scampi, garlic is a defining ingredient. In its raw form, garlic is potent with a sharp bite, but when garlic is roasted, sautéed, or baked, the cloves caramelize. This mellows its harshness and increases its sweetness, allowing whole gloves to be enjoyed smeared on bread.

When Nancy Silverton, a prominent Italian food authority, shares her technique for cutting garlic, we should all pay attention. Here's how Silverton transforms her pasta dishes.

Thinly slice garlic

Nancy Silverton is the chef and owner of several restaurants, including Los Angeles' Michelin-starred Osteria Mozza, a prolific cookbook author, and has been awarded the James Beard Foundation's 2014 "Best Chef" award amongst other honors throughout her distinguished career, per LA Food Bank. Sharing her cooking tip for sautéing garlic, fellow chef Marcus Samuelson explains how Silverton thinly slices garlic cloves for pasta dishes. According to Samuelson, when sautéed in a bit of oil, sliced garlic provides a better and mellow garlic taste versus chopped garlic via YouTube.

If that sounds familiar, it's because Paulie from "Goodfellas" used the same technique. Although Paulie used a razor blade, Henry Hill explains, "he used to slice it so thin that it used to liquefy in the pan with just a little oil. It's a very good system." To safely thinly slice garlic with a chef's knife, Food Network recommends using a rocking motion with the blade as you slowly move across the clove that's stabilized with your other hand.

According to America's Test Kitchen, how you cut garlic determines how garlicky your dish will be, not just how many cloves you use. For a mild garlic taste, keep cloves whole like in garlic confit. Sliced garlic will offer a slightly more pronounced flavor, while minced garlic will be more pungent. For the sharpest garlic flavor, try grating garlic with a rasp or use your knife to create a paste.