If you read my other blog, you know I’m all about wholesome, low-effort meals that taste great. It’s how I cook at home, and it’s especially true during the busy holiday season. This effortless pasta, made with a handful of ingredients, takes less than 10 minutes to make and is perfect as a first course or side dish.
As with any recipe with so few ingredients, the quality of each ingredient counts. Using a good olive oil is particularly important. While price doesn’t always equal quality, good olive oils are rarely cheap. I use an Italian olive oil that’s about $30 for a 500ml bottle. When deciding on a brand of olive oil, it’s best to find a shop that will let you taste the oil before you chose one. Like wine, everyone has his/her preference and it’s important that you get one that suits your palette.
Since I can’t buy pepperoncino chilies here, I used a Japanese variety similar to Cayenne called Togarashi, but Piri Piri or Arbol chilies will also work. The important thing is that it’s ripe (red), and spicy. In a pinch you could even use dried chili flakes, but I prefer the texture and flavor of fresh chilies for this dish. Also, keep in mind that Italian Pepperoncino chilies are not the same thing as American Peperoncini (milder greenish-yellow variety that are usually pickled).
Lastly, on the issue, of cheese, I’m always game to add cheese to foods to make them taste better, but adding cheese to this dish will be looked at as sacrilege by purists. Indeed, if you use great ingredients for this simple pasta, it doesn’t need cheese. That said, I promise I won’t tell anyone if you shave a little Pecorino Grand Cru on top:-)
Spaghetti Aglio Olio e Peperoncino
Spaghetti Aglio Olio e Peperoncino is a quick, go-to first course or side made with olive oil, chili peppers and garlic. Food blogger Marc Matsumoto provides tips for picking the perfect olive oil and finding the right chili in a full post on the Fresh Tastes blog.
- 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 3 large cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 chili peppers, seeds removed and finely minced
- 400 grams spaghetti (14 ounces)
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add enough salt so that the water is very salty (just shy of sea water). This is important, as there is no salt in the "sauce", so if you don't have enough salt in the pasta water, the finished pasta will taste bland.
- Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. In most cases, the package directions call to cook spaghetti for 9 minutes. I cook mine for 7 minutes 30 seconds to get it perfectly al dente, but this will vary depending on your preference and altitude (the higher you are from sea-level, the longer you’ll need to boil the pasta).
- While your pasta is boiling, add the olive oil, garlic and chili peppers to a frying pan and heat over a medium low flame. Let the garlic gently fry until browned, swirling the oil around occasionally to make sure it browns evenly. Be careful not to burn the garlic or it will taste bitter. If it starts to brown too much, turn off the heat.
- When the pasta is done, drain it, and add the pasta to the frying pan. Use a pair of tongs to toss the pasta in the garlic chili oil and coat each strand evenly.
- Serve immediately
Yield: 3-4 servings
Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.