Thursday, May 8, 2014


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Italian food is a normally a slow cuisine. Hand-shaped pastas. Stove-top braises. Day-long sauces.  But, when I was studying in Florence, my friend Antonio introduced me to one of Italy's easier recipes: aglio, olio e peperoncino. Garlic (aglio) and chili (peperoncino) get sauteed until fragrant in olive oil (olio).  This trinity is then tossed with a heap of hot spaghetti.

Purists will make this sauce with just those three ingredients. To jazz it up, you can also dress the oil-slicked spaghetti with a handful of chopped parsley or pan toasted breadcrumbs.  This is flavorful food for the kitchen clueless.


* 4 cloves of garlic (or more to taste), roughly chopped
* 3 dried peperoncini or 1/2 tsp. or red chili flakes
* 1/4 cup - 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
* 16 oz of dried spaghetti

* 1/2 cup of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
*1/3 cup of grated parmigiano reggiano 
* 1/3 cup of  pan-toasted breadcrumbs

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Pour in the spaghetti once the water boils,  cooking for 9-10 minutes until al dente.  Meanwhile, roughly chop the peeled garlic and peperoncini.  While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium.  After 2 minutes of heating, add garlic to the oil. Stir frequently, sizzling the garlic until it starts to brown.  This will take around 2 minutes.

Mix in the peperoncini or red pepper flakes into the oil.  Cook the garlic and chili for another 30 seconds -- no stirring.  Before straining the pasta, pour 1 ladle-ful of starchy pasta water into the garlic-chili-oil slurry.  Turn the heat to medium-high and bring this liquid to a boil. When it begins to bubble, lower the heat to a simmer. Cook the liquid for 5 minutes, allowing the browned garlic and chili to hydrate and soften in the water.  Remove the liquid from the heat after 5 minutes

Strain the spaghetti and then pour it into the skillet with the garlicky water.  Toss the pasta and the liquid, coating all of the spaghetti.  If you'd like, you can add the chopped parsley or grated cheese at this point.  Be sure to re-toss the pasta if you add herbs or parmigiano. Let the pasta sit at room temperature for 3-5 minutes; this will give the pasta time absorb some of the flavored liquid. (If you'd prefer to add a bit of crunch, dress each bowl of pasta with a tablespoon or two of toasted breadcrumbs; you can read about making pant-toasted breadcrumbs here).

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