What's the one Italian dish you can pull together in fifteen minutes and with nothing in your fridge? Say "ciao" to Spaghetti Aglio Olio e Peperoncino.
Originating in Campania, this iconic pasta is a classic example of cucina povera, making the most of simple ingredients. The hero here is the extra virgin olive oil, so you'll want to be sure to choose one that is made with hand-picked, cold-pressed olives (and remember: olio extravergine d'oliva is best when fresh). We recommend choosing a robust, even spicy extra virgin olive oil typical of Southern Italy to add to the kick from the peperoncino, or red chili pepper, a common ingredient found in the more fiery cuisine of the South.
In fact, this dish traditionally provides the base for other iconic Neapolitan recipes like spaghetti alle vongole or spaghetti with anchovies. In Napoli, this dish was originally called spaghetti all boronica, and chefs even added stones collected from the seaside and a pomodorino del piennolo to impart the plate with a true taste of il mare.
Nowadays in Italy, it is a beloved dish that is just as often eaten for dinner as it is a midnight snack, and it's easy to see why: every ingredient can be found in your pantry in a moment's notice. Simple, satisfying, and quick, see how to make spaghetti with garlic and oil below.
Spaghetti Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino (Spaghetti with Garlic, Olive Oil, and Red Chili Pepper)
1 pound dried spaghetti
Salt (enough to season your pasta water)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly (about 1 clove per person, without the germ)
Sliced and seeded fresh red chili peppers to taste (or 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes if you don't have fresh ones)
½ cup reserved pasta water
½ cup chopped parsley
4 fillets of anchovies (optional)
In a medium pot bring water to a boil. Once boiling, add salt to taste (it should taste almost as salty as the sea). Add the pasta and cook it for 1 minute less than the suggested cooking time.
While the pasta is cooking add half of the olive oil and garlic to a large sauté pan. On medium heat, cook the garlic until it gets very fragrant and translucent (making sure not to burn it). Add the crushed red chili flakes to the pan and let them cook for 1 minute, then add a generous spoonful of pasta water.
When al dente, strain the pasta and add it to the sauté pan right away. Cook for another minute in the pan, then add the parsley and the rest of the extra virgin olive oil and give it a nice toss – a mantecatura – in the pan until everything is incorporated. The water-sauce will be whipped with the extra virgin olive to create a perfect emulsion of oil, water, and starch.
Serve right away.