For several decades I’ve been roasting whole heads of garlic with extra virgin olive oil—because it is soooo worth it. I am amazed to find out how many people still have never attempted making this simple and versatile caramelized deliciousness! So here is a quick “how to” on the uncomplicated technique, and how you came tame it’s brasher profile for its softer side.
As far as the process, there are numerous ways to go about it, but I find the steps below work best for me. Sometimes I don’t even slice off the tops before roasting, but doing so certainly makes it easier to squeeze out the caramelized paste when they are finished cooking. I’ve noticed that many cooks roast their bulbs at 400°F, but I do mine at a lower temp of 325° so that they don’t burn (which has happened in the past.)
Doing it my way, you also don’t have any pans leftover to clean. Some chefs place the cut bulbs in a pie plate or in the cups of a muffin pan. I simply put them in a large piece of aluminum foil and fold it up to seal in the heat. When done, just toss the tinfoil in the garbage.
Did you know roasting garlic changes its chemical makeup so that it’s easier to digest? You can eat a lot more garlic if it is completely cooked, with fewer side effects than you would get from eating raw garlic. And just imagine that heady aroma wafting through your house as they cook! Pungent cloves go silky and sultry, warm and welcoming, like a bonfire burned down to glowing embers.
For garlic aficionados, you can eat the caramelized roasted cloves directly out of the heads—just sayin’. Once roasted, you can store the whole cloves covered with olive oil. My preference however, is to blend them with EVOO into a velvety paste, put in a tightly sealed loc-n-loc, top with a thin layer of EVOO and refrigerate.
The applications for using roasted garlic are endless. You can spread some of this buttery, nutty deliciousness on a piece of crusty baguette or make toasty garlic bread. Or use the paste (or cloves) in pasta dishes, mashed or roasted potatoes, over and under skin for roasted chicken, add to soups or even mix it with sour cream for a dip. I recently spread it over a pizza crust before topping with the other ingredients.
If you’ve never made this, today’s a good day to start—you won’t regret it!
Roasted Garlic Heads
- 3 Large heads of garlic
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Fresh thyme sprigs, optional
- Preheat your oven to 325°F
- Remove any loose papery skin from the heads and using a sharp knife, cut 1/4 inch from the top of cloves, exposing the individual cloves of garlic. Don’t worry if a few of them are still intact, the garlic will still squeeze out later.
- Place the garlic heads, cut side up, in tinfoil, drizzle heavily with extra virgin olive oil (top with fresh thyme if using) and fold to completely enclose. Put in the oven for at least 60, or up to 90 minutes.
- Remove from oven, open the tinfoil to release the steam.
- When cool, squeeze each clove into a mini-blender and drizzle in olive oil while puréeing until a thick homogenized paste forms.
- Place into a container, drizzle on another thin layer of EVOO over the top, seal tightly, and refrigerate, where it will last for several months.
ALTERNATIVELY: Squeeze the cloves directly into a container and pour enough olive oil over to cover them completely. Close tightly with lid and refrigerate.
- When ready to use, take the container out of the fridge for about 30 minutes to soften and let the oil come to room temp. Spoon out necessary amount.