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Roasted Garlic
serves 4

When you wrap whole heads of garlic in foil and roast them, they lose their ferocity and become a delicious mellow version of themselves, the flesh soft and puree–like. Serve one or two whole heads roasted garlic per person, letting your guests pull the cloves apart and squeeze the flesh out of its papery casing onto slices of grilled bread, or directly into their mouths.

Removed from its skin, roasted garlic can be used as a flavoring for soups, sauces, and stews; on pizzas; as a base for sauces; and most deliciously in mashed potatoes and polenta.

You can roast as many heads of garlic at once as you wish. Simply double or triple the recipe, wrapping no more than 4 large or 8 small heads in each package.

4 large or 8 small heads garlic (about 14 ounces)
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons water

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Gently peel off the papery white skin from each head of garlic to reveal the cloves, without separating them. Place the garlic on a sheet of aluminum foil. Using a slightly dampened brush, brush with the olive oil, and nestle the thyme sprigs among them. Dribble the water onto the foil. Pull the edges of the foil up and crimp tightly together to form a package. Place on a baking sheet.

Bake the garlic until the flesh is soft, about 35 to 45 minutes. To eat the garlic, pull off 1 clove at a time and squeeze the soft flesh out of the skin.

in advance: Roasted Garlic is best eaten or used when still warm. The garlic puree variation that follows, however, will keep for up to 2 weeks refrigerated, or frozen for up to 2 months. Pack into a clean, dry container, pour a film of extra–virgin olive oil on top, and cover tightly.

Click the image to read a companion article, Clove Encounters (Food & Wine, June, 1999)