Red sauce, be gone!
Or at least for now. Today, we’re exploring the lighter side of Italian pasta dishes with a classic recipe, perfected by us (though it needs little perfecting). Spaghetti Aglio e Olio (or spaghetti with garlic and oil) might just be the simplest pasta dish on the planet. At its most basic, it’s just 3 ingredients – pasta, garlic, and olive oil. Perhaps a pinch of chile flakes, parsley, and parmiggiano to liven things up, but that’s it.
It’s a dish that can be found in nearly every trattoria across Italy and is proof that pasta doesn’t have to be heavy, filling or complicated. With a simple technique, you can put an incredibly satisfying plate of pasta on the table in 15 minutes. We’re going to show you how.
In our opinion, this dish is proof that sometimes the most perfect things in life are also the most simple.
Unlike most pasta “sauces,” this dish doesn’t really have a sauce at all. What flavors the pasta is simply a glistening coat of oil and pasta water, infused with garlic. To start the dish, sliced garlic and a high-quality extra virgin olive oil are added to a cold pan and warmed over medium heat. The goal here is not to brown the garlic but to infuse the oil with as much garlic flavor as possible while softening the actual cloves. At the same time that the garlic and oil go onto the stove, add the pasta into salted, boiling water. As the sauce cooks, the pasta cooks as well.
After about 5 minutes, the garlic will start to sizzle but not brown. At this stage, add the chile flakes, stir for 30 seconds, then add a cup of starchy pasta water, which helps create the “sauce” and helps it stick to the strands of pasta.
Once the pasta finishes cooking, transfer it straight to the saucepan, adding a splash more pasta water if needed. Toss everything together with cheese and parsley and the dish is finished.
Our secret ingredient that really works magic is the zest of one lemon. When the zest hits the hot pasta, it immediately releases its essential oils, adding a light citrusy flavor to the dish. Serve with extra parsley and cheese and you’re done. For one less thing to clean, go straight from the stove to the table and serve the pasta directly in the pan.
This is a dish that should be in every cook’s repertoire, no matter the skill level or experience. It’s deceivingly simple yet elegant. Next time you’re planning pasta night, skip the heavy, loaded sauces, and go #backtobasics with Aglio e Olio instead.