If brevity is the soul of wit then simplicity is key for every home cook, especially on a weeknight. We’ve all been there: hungry, tired, and, worse yet, uninspired. But don’t panic, weeknight warriors, because from Italy come three easy pieces that make a dinner so simple yet so delicious, you’ll wonder how you ever went through your cooking life without it in your arsenal.
Aglio, olio e peperoncino: say it like an Italian with all the time in the world. These three ingredients make a delicious, wholesome pasta that Italians have sworn by since… well, I don’t know but when my Italian friend Eleonora showed me how to make it my life changed forever. “It’s the first recipe every Italian learns,” she said. All you need are garlic, olive oil, and red pepper chili flakes (hence aglio, olio e peperoncino), plus a handful of pasta and some chopped parsley for that fresh note at the end. Once mastered, this pasta dish lends itself to any number of variations: dice a fresh tomato, add capers or throw in a few shrimp for a new take. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for added richness. Whatever your fancy, however much (or little) time you have, this quick, fresh, wholesome meal simplifies dinner—and your life—any night of the week.
Aglio, olio, e peperoncino
Makes 2 servings
1. To cook the pasta, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and add the kosher salt (it should taste like the sea). Add the spaghetti and, with a pair of tongs, stir the strands as they soften, making sure to separate and submerge them in the water. Return the water to a rolling boil and cook the pasta until al dente, about 9-10 minutes, or according to package instructions.
2. While the pasta cooks, add the extra virgin olive oil to a 10-inch sauté pan and set it over low heat. Add the sliced garlic and cook, about 1-2 minutes, stirring gently to prevent the garlic slices from browning or burning. The goal here is to infuse the oil with the garlic.
3. Set aside the garlic slices and make a “hot spot” in the pan before adding the red pepper chili flakes. Cook the chili flakes for a moment before gently stirring the garlic slices and chili flakes together in the olive oil. Continue to cook while stirring the pan over the heat, making sure neither the garlic nor the chili flakes brown or burn, about 1-2 minutes. The pan should be fragrant by now. Season to taste with kosher salt.
4. When the pasta is cooked, remove with the tongs and drain briefly before adding to the sauté pan. Gently toss and dress the pasta in the garlic-and-chili-infused olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Finish with the chopped parsley, toss the pasta again, and drizzle with olive oil. Serve immediately with Parmigiano-Reggiano at the table.
Food, travel & forks in the road: Culinary & Digital Media | Food Stylist | Recipe Tester | Former Social & Digital Media Coordinator, USA Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015