Love Letter to Rick Bayless: Mojo de Ajo Shrimp Pasta

My favorite way to workout in the wintertime is to hop on the elliptical when I get home from work and catch up on favorite shows that I’ve missed. The TV takes my mind off the chore at hand, makes the time fly and the calories burn. I’ve been known to watch an entire movie (fluffy romantic comedies need only apply) while exercising. Monday night, I had a hard time picking something to watch, and eventually settled on an episode of Rick Bayless’ PBS show, Mexico One Plate at a Time.

As usual, I decided that I needed to make whatever Rick was cooking and hopped off the machine to grab paper and pen to make a shopping list. Crazy, right?! So, my workout pace might have slowed a bit, as I scribbled few notes about this recipe. But if you catch this particular episode, you’ll understand why I was so captivated by a simple sauce of garlic and olive oil. Make this, and I think you’ll agree that your kitchen will forever be changed.

Rick explained that this simple sauce is called mojo de ajo which literally means “bath of garlic,” and it is exactly that. 2 cups of smashed garlic cloves. 3 cups of olive oil. A sprinkle of salt and a dash of red pepper flake. Lime juice. Bake. That’s the whole recipe. Simple, right?!

This is one of those dishes that is definitely more than the sum of its parts. I’ve made roasted garlic olive oil before, and it’s wonderful. But the simple additions of red pepper flakes and lime juice sends this dish over the edge into culinary heaven. You add the lime juice partway through the slow-roasting, and the citrus flavor is softened by a few moments in the oven. When the mixture is done relaxing in the oven, you can spoon off about two cups of the pure garlic oil to save in a separate jar for salad dressings, roasting potatoes, and just about anything you want to make – I added a spoon of garlic oil to a bowl of homemade refried beans, and we found the bottom of that bowl FAST.  Then, scoop the other two cups of garlic oil goodness into a jar…this is your mojo de ajo. Use a spoonful or two of mojo in pasta, slathered over chicken before roasting, added to a simple tomato sauce – I think this sauce would be a welcome addition to just about any dish. I can’t wait to roast some potatoes with it.

For my first meal with the mojo, I settled on a simple shrimp scampi pasta (much as Rick did on his show). It highlighted the garlic oil perfectly and we found ourselves fishing through the bowl of pasta to spear a sliver of smooth, mellow garlic with every forkful. All I can say is that you need to make this. Now.

Mojo de Ajo
From Rick Bayless6 heads garlic
, about 2 cups peeled garlic cloves
3 cups fruity olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup fresh lime juice

  1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees.  Break the heads of garlic apart, then mash each clove (a fist against the side of a knife is what I do) to release the clove from its papery skin.
  2. Stir together the garlic, oil, pepper flakes and salt in an 8×8-inch baking pan (make sure all the garlic is submerged), slide it into the oven and bake until the garlic is soft and lightly brown, about 45 to 55 minutes.
  3. Add the lime juice and return to the oven for 20 minutes for the garlic to absorb the lime and turn golden brown.  (If you’re using the larger quantity of oil, ladle off 1-2 cups—no garlic cloves—and store it in the fridge for use in salad dressing or sautéing.)
  4. Using an old-fashioned potato masher or large fork, mash the garlic into a coarse puree.  Pour the mixture into a wide-mouth storage container and refrigerate it until you’re ready to enjoy some deliciousness.

Mojo Shrimp Pasta
serves 2

6 oz dried (gluten-free) pasta, whatever shape you like best
6 oz shrimp – peeled, and sliced into bite sized pieces
1 T garlic oil
3 T mojo with garlic chunks
red pepper flakes to taste
1/2 cup pasta cooking water
parmesan cheese and cilantro to garnish

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions. When you’ve got about 5 minutes left in pasta cooking time, heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 T of the garlic oil and red pepper flakes, then saute the shrimp for 2 minutes. Drain the pasta when it is done cooking, reserving 1/2 cup of water. Pour the drained pasta and reserved cooking oil into the pan with the shrimp. Add the 3T mojo de ajo, and gently toss to coat everything in the beautiful garlic oil. Grate in some parmesan cheese, and serve. Garnish with cilantro.

682 cal per serving, 290cal from fat, 34g fat, 170mg cholesterol, 380mg potassium, 380mg sodium, 67g carbs, 3g fiber, 28g protein

45 thoughts on “Love Letter to Rick Bayless: Mojo de Ajo Shrimp Pasta

  1. Holy garlic and olive oil batman. Now that is some serious stuff. Do you think you will use it all or would you suggest cutting the recipe in half?

    Loving the new blog – I’m sure reorganizing and updating is keeping you busy.

  2. Oh, I’m sure I’ll use it all, but you could easily cut it in half. If kept in the fridge, it should keep a good long while…but in our house, it’s likely to only last a few weeks. 🙂

    Yeah, reorganizing, and editing every one of the posts from the old site is going to keep me busy for awhile – that’s what I’ll be doing on our holiday tomorrow, for sure!

  3. Hey Jenn! Lookin’ good! I moved to first and then still had a few things I wanted to do but couldn’t so then i moved to but i still think either wordpress is better than blogger unless you know a lot of html to tweak stuff on blogger – and then you still have your limits.

    that is some good lookin’ mojo there :). we ate at xoco saturday night after getting to topolo at 7 and realizing they had a 2.5 hour wait for 2 – yikes!! love bayless though, either way!!.

  4. Yep, Heather, I’d agree that there’s still some things that I want on the blog, that aren’t available with…I’m sure I’ll eventually move to .org, just need a little more time to do it – I figure once I clean-up all the posts here, installing my own WP won’t be so much work…I know HTML pretty well, but my CSS is a little rusty. 🙂

    • Roasted mojo taters are on the menu for thursday – I’ll let you know how they turn out!

      Thanks for the blog props…I’m loving the new look of the site…still working on updating old posts with bigger pictures – gonna take awhile to finish that “little” project!

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  7. Jenn, how long can the mojo safely be stored? I seem to remember a cooking show that had simmered garlic in oil and there was some mention of being careful due about botulism. I think they mentioned removing the garlic but it has been a while so I can’t be sure. I love mojo de ajo and usually get carne asada mojo de ajo burritos at my favorite Mexican joint. Love your recipes!

    • Thanks for commenting, Dianna! Since mojo has a literal TON of garlic in it, plus oil and lime juice, I’m not too worried about botulism (or anything growing in there), especially since I refrigerate the mojo. I think Rick said to store it for a month in the fridge, but I’m going on 2 months with my current jar, and it’s still fine.

  8. Enuf said!! I’m gonna make this and try to make my carne asada mojo de ajo burritos! It was very thin sliced steak marinated with mojo de ajo and sliced fresh onions, cooked quickly on the grill and then chopped up into bite sized morsels….truly fantastic with some good refried beans, rice, guacamole, and a yummy hot sauce! Thanks again for showing me how to make the mojo de ajo at home!

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  10. I have a silly question. What would a ‘fruity’ olive oil be considered?

    I am making this as we speak with EVOO – but it looks almost as if the garlic is frying in the oil (ie, a lot of bubbling). Is this to be expected? Am I using the wrong oil? I will let you all know how it turns out in the end. 🙂

    I seen this the other day and HAD to make it as well, his looked like it was slower cooking than mine currently is..


    • There’s certainly some bubbling – especially after you add the lime juice. As for fruity olive oil, just use what you have/like – you really don’t need to use anything too fancy for this one – I go with Trader Joe’s California Olive Oil – economical, and works fine. The garlic really adds all the flavor anyway. Hope you enjoy the mojo!

  11. I hate to be a downer, but you shouldn’t keep homemade garlic oil in the fridge for more than a week. Botulism spores grow when there’s no oxygen (garlic covered in oil) and you will not see any signs of spoilage either. Be safe!

    • Thanks, Lisa! Good to know…There’s also a 1/3 cup lime juice in the mojo that all absorbs into the garlic, so I was hoping that would help. The jars of mojo haven’t lasted too long in our house – maybe 2-3 weeks at the outside, and so far, we’ve been okay.

  12. Found your site today and was drooling over the Mojo de Ajo Shrimp Pasta recipe. I too was concerned about botulism – I must have seen the same show some of the other posters saw BUT I went over to one of Rick Bayliss’s websites

    and found a recipe for the Garlic Mojo. Same basic recipe you posted but it makes a smaller quantity. At the bottom of the recipe it says:

    This mojo will keep for up to three months in the refrigerator as long as there’s enough oil to keep the garlic covered.

    I really have enjoyed perusing your site today – my daughter has celiac and I was looking for some new recipes to try.

    It is obvious you put a lot of time and effort into your website. Job well done!!

    • Thanks so much stopping by the site and subscribing! I’m sure I should be more concerned with botulism, but I’ve kept the garlic oil in the fridge for 3 months with no problem….I do keep the garlic submerged with oil, but it stores beautifully, and I haven’t had any problems – which is saying something since we celiacs have hair-trigger stomachs. 😉

      Hope you enjoy the site, and if you have questions about any of the recipes, just let me know!

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  15. I buy the unpeeled garlic from Sam’s in the bulk container and use that. It works great and makes it a lot quicker and something I do not mind doing every month…if it lasts that long.

    • I’m with you, Mary! After the first time making the mojo, I did the same and bought the GIANT tub of garlic from my neighborhood grocery. Makes this one a 5 minute prep project, with delicious results. I just ran out of my current stock, so it’s on the prep list for the weekend. 🙂

    • Love your avvie, Uncle Lee! Slowly baking the garlic in the oil effectively roasts it – it has the same effect of making the garlic mild & sweet. To defrost shrimp, just dump them in a bowl, and let a small trickle of water flow over them constantly for a few minutes – they’ll thaw in 5-10 minutes, depending on how many shrimp and how large your bowl is.

    • Amber, you will LOVE this. A dab of the garlic confit and a drizzle of oil on some pasta is heaven, and the oil and garlic keep for a good long time in the fridge! We just had some pasta last night with minced piquillo peppers, kalamata olives, and a spoon of the garlic and oil…amazing.

    • I don’t know. Probably. Maybe…who can say. But this is garlic simmered in oil with lime juice…I’ve kept jars of this in the fridge for months. So long as you keep the mashed garlic as well as the jarred oil in the fridge, I think you’re fine. And at any rate, this stuff is so good, I’m willing to risk it. 🙂

  16. I have a question about storing the mojo de ajo in the refrigerator. Everybody says to keep it in the refrigerator, and it’ll be ok as long as all of the garlic is covered in oil. But when you put it in the refrigerator, it solidifies. You can scoop it out, but not really recover the exposed parts with oil. What to do?

    • I’ve had a jar of the mojo in my fridge non-stop for the last couple years, typically working a jar of the garlic for 3-4 months at a time…and I don’t really tend to it to make sure it’s recovered in oil after I scoop some out. I’m sure the kitchen safety experts would say I’m not being safe, but I haven’t gotten sick yet, and between the oil, salt, garlic and lime juice, I kind of bank on the idea that nothing is going to grow in there. Kind of like jam…it lasts a good long while before spoiling.

    • Madeleine – That’s a really good question, and I’m not sure if the acidity level would be high enough in either the garlic confit or oil to keep longterm. I have given it as housewarming gifts, just noting to keep it in the fridge and it will keep for a few weeks (at least).

  17. Wowza! This Mojo de Ajo is sublime! I made it two days ago and took it as a appetizer with sliced sourdough bread to spread the mojo on. Received raving compliments from my wine club. Just so you know, the Mojo de Ajo pairs suberbly with big Napa Valley Cabernets! Thanks for sharing this recipe. It’s a keeper!

    • Lisa – that sounds like a perfect use for mojo! I made another batch last week – I never like to be without this in the fridge. A spoonful is a great starter for just about any recipe, and we’re particularly loving it with fresh asparagus which is so incredible this time of year!

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