Spaghetti “Aglio, olio e peperoncino”
“Garlic, oil and chili pepper” spaghetti

SPAGHETTI-AGLIO-OLIO-PEPERONCINO-CROP

This is my very first post ever. And I couldn’t start with a better recipe than this: spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino.

This is one of the simplest and most genuine italian dishes. It’s very cheap: ingredients are easy to buy in any supermarket, and they are usually always available in any italian kitchen. It’s also commonly cooked as a conclusive ritual for a nice homely party with friends: “spaghetti di mezzanotte” – midnight spaghetti – is something people hardly say no to in Italy.

Due to the simplicity of the recipe, I suggest to using good quality products: each flavour will be very distinctive and the cooking technique will enhance each one of them.


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ingredients

for the sauce

  • Peeled garlic clove – 1
  • Fresh parsley (both stalks and leaves*) – 30gr
  • Fresh Chili peppers (medium) – 2
  • Extra virgin olive oil – 80gr
  • “Suited garlic” cloves – 2
  • Salt – a pinch
  • Cooking water – about 20ml or 25ml

for the pasta

  • Fresh parsley stalks* – 20gr
  • Water** – 5lt
  • Salt** – 50gr
  • Spaghetti – 240gr

*You will need a small bouquet of parsley and to separate the leaves from the stalks.

** If you want to use less water (not less than 3lt – see the main note about boiling pasta) then you can reduce the salt to 30gr.

utensils

for the sauce

  • One chopping board
  • One paring knife
  • One tea towel
  • One sharp chef knife
  • One zester
  • One large frying pan

for the pasta

  • One 6-8lt saucepan
  • Cooking string
  • One small bowl or jug
  • One ladle
  • One stainless steal strainer
  • Two wooden spoons or silicon spatulas (if necessary)

METHOD

step 1: frying the base of garlic and parsley

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  • Extra virgin olive oil – 80gr
  • Fresh parsley (both stalks and leaves) – 30gr
  • “Suited garlic” cloves – 2
  • One large frying pan

Thoroughly wash the parsley and dry it with the towel without making any pressure on it; keep a couple of stalks aside. With the remaining, separate the leaves from the stalks.

Put the pan on low heat, add the extra virgin olive oil, the two cloves and the two or three parley stalks. Let it gently come to temperature for about 10 minutes.

step 2: boiling the water

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  • Fresh parsley stalks
  • Cooking string
  • Water – 5lt

Put the saucepan with the water on high heat. Make a ”bouquet garni” of the parsley stalks and add it to the water.

The water will take from 10 to 15 minutes to get to a stable boiling.

Note about salt and water for pasta

If you think you might forget to salt water before adding pasta, you can salt water right after putting it on heat. This can become a safe routine, but the commonly unknown result of this is that it will require a longer time to come to the boiling temperature of 100ºC. It would be better instead to wait for the boiling to start and then carefully add the salt. The addiction of salt at this stage causes a sudden increase of the temperature of the solution for a couple of seconds during which the water increases the bubbling and risks to pour out if the pan’s sides are not sufficiently high.

So the right pan should be taller than its diameter and capacious enough to contain a good amount of water.

The minimum ratio between water and pasta is 1lt every 100gr. Although, for small amount of pasta it’s better to use a fairly large and deep pan which will keep the water to temperature also after dropping the pasta in. So that’s why I prefer to use 5lt of water even just to cook a single portion of pasta.

Another important detail of which to take care, is the right quantity of salt to add to the water. It depends on the quantity of salt the condiment for pasta is going to contain and the cooking time that pasta requires; not only on your personal taste.

A normal dose of salt is 11-12gr per litre of water and it can be increased to a maximum of 14-15gr for those who like their food to be particularly savoury. When using ingredients which are already salty themselves, like bacon or ham, the dose can be lowered to a minimum of 9-10gr per litre of water, as well as when you know that you will bind pasta with a lot of its own cooking water.

Keep also in mind that longer cooking timings require higher doses of salt, and that a quicker cooking will need a smaller dose.

step 3: preparing the chili and the garlic

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  • Peeled garlic clove – 1
  • Fresh Chili peppers (medium) – 2
  • One paring knife
  • One sharp chef knife
  • One chopping board

Peel the garlic clove, cut in half and take off the green grem (which can be move difficult to digest) and leave aside.

Using a paring knife, cut the chili peppers longways and take off the seeds and the membrane.

step 4: putting the pasta to boil

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  • Water** – 5lt (boiling)
  • Salt** – 50gr
  • Spaghetti – 240gr
  • One 6-8lt saucepan

** If you want to use less water (not less than 3lt – see then main note about boiling pasta) the you can reduce the salt to 30gr.

As soon as the water starts boiling, add the 50gr of salt and after the boiling has settled again, add the pasta in. Stir frequently for the first few minutes to avoid the pasta sticking to the bottom or to each other.

Spaghetti will take from 9 to 11 minutes to cook, but you will need to strain them 2 or 3 minutes earlier: keep a couple of ladles of the cooking water to add it to the pasta while binding it with the sauce in the frying pan.

step 5: grating the garlic, mincing the parsley and frying the chili.

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  • Peeled garlic clove – 1
  • Fresh parsley leaves
  • Julienned Chili peppers
  • Salt – a pinch
  •  One zester
  • One chopping board
  • One sharp chef knife

While pasta is boiling, grate the garlic clove with the zester, collect its meat and keep aside. Then, finely mince the parsley leaves and put aside.

Increase the hob’s power under the frying pan with the sauce setting it to medium. Add the chopped chili peppers, season with a pinch of salt, stir evenly and let it fry gently letting it lightly brown on the edges.

Just one minute before straining the spaghetti, add the garlic meat, stir and let it fry and brown lightly.

step 6: straining the pasta

  • One small bowl or jug
  • One ladle
  • Large Strainer

Seven or eight minutes have past since you dropped the spaghetti into water. They will not be ready yet and if you lift one strand with a fork, you will see that it does not hang vertically as if it was perfectly cooked “al dente”.

Collect about 20ml or 25ml of cooking water with a ladle and put aside in a small receptacle.

Drain the pasta thoroughly with a strainer. Do not let it dry completely: the water that coasts the spaghetti will protect them from the thermic shock they will go through when tossing in the frying pan.

Note about the correct cooking point al dente”

”Al dente” literally means ”to the tooth”. It indicates the perfect consistency that pasta, or any other food, should have at the end of the cooking process: not too soft and not too hard at chewing. Pasta cooked ”al dente” maintains a harder consistency at the centre of the dough sheet which gives the diners a pleasant feeling of ”biting” rather than ”mushing” something under their teeth.

step 7: binding pasta and sauce

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  • Drained spaghetti
  • Cooking water – about 20ml or 25ml
  • Minced parsley
  • The frying pan with the sauce
  • One ladle
  • Two wooden spoons or silicon spatulas (if necessary)

Take off the dry parsley stalks from the frying pan and bring the heat to a medium-high level; then immediately add all spaghetti. Stir and toss quickly with the two spoons then add one ladle of cooking water and keep tossing and stirring frequently.

The oil and the water will reduce quickly and cook the pasta, the starch of which – dissolved in the liquor – will thicken the sauce. Add another ladle if you think that the pasta needs to cook  a little longer. If not, sprinkle the minced parsley evenly on top, add half of a ladle of cooking water, then toss and stir again for no longer than half a minute.

Serve immediately.

Note about binding pasta

As for rice, almost all recipes require pasta to be bound together with it’s sauce and tossed over heat. This allows the sauce to grab to the surface of pasta, whether it is smooth or lined or bronze wire-drawn, so that every forkful will have it’s perfect balance of flavors and textures. Otherwise, sauce would slip away while eating and you would end up with a good quantity of the sauce still on the bottom of the bowl.

Another very good idea, even if not allowed by etiquette, is to eat pasta – any kind of pasta – with some nice fresh crusty bread. Bread’s starchy flavor enhances both the flavors of the sauce and the pasta dough itself.

 

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