Otherwise known as pasta with garlic, oil and chilli or dinner for when there’s nothing in the fridge. Not that you should wait until the larder’s bare to make this quick-fire supper. This is the epitome of how Italian food makes the most of basic ingredients: the sum is so much more than the individual components.
It was around this time of year six years ago, when I was living in a very cold and foggy Emilia-Romagna, that my Sicilian housemate tought me how to make a simple pasta sauce that soon became my favourite. We stood side by side as she poured olive oil into a little metal jug and carefully heated it over the smallest gas ring. Once it was hot she tossed in a crush clove of garlic cut in two (it mustn’t be chopped otherwise it will burn) and a diced chilli. The garlic and chilli sizzle away and as soon as the garlic turns golden you turn off the heat. The fried garlic is discarded and the hot oil is poured over cooked pasta. Stir in a handful of chopped parsley and hey presto!, dinner’s ready in 10 minutes.
It’s hard to get aglio, olio and peperoncino wrong but, trust me, I’ve had some bad experiences. One particular restaurant in Berlin added olives, cherry tomatoes and spring onions – I call that overkill. The key points are:
- Don’t burn the garlic, nothing tastes worse!
- Use good olive oil for flavour but don’t waste your expensive stuff.
- Try not to add extras; simplicity is good. I’ll accept a sprinkling of parmesan but that’s it.
Yes, I’m fussy. I’ll get my coat…
Pasta aglio, olio e peperoncino
For two people:
- 150g pasta
- 75ml extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, crushed and cut in two
- 1 red chilli, deseeded and diced
- a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
- sea salt
Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet.
In the smallest pan you have warm the oil over a medium heat. Add the garlic and chilli and fry over a low heat until the garlic starts to turn golden. Turn off the heat and discard the garlic.
Strain the pasta and stir in the oil and parsley. Season with a little salt to taste.