I ordered a glass of Chianti and spaghetti with a sauce of olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and parsley.
This was more of a coating, not a bath of sauce, giving every forkful the bite of hot peppers, the lesser mellowed bite of garlic and a bit of parsley for freshness.
Make this dish with almost no effort when you’re feeling in the need of a little comfort, something to warm you from the inside out. It’s also easily adapted to any number of servings, from one to a crowd.
Because there are so few ingredients, you want them to be of high quality. For the olive oil, use extra-virgin, preferably from Italy. Use a decent bottle, but not an expensive finishing oil whose qualities would be masked by the garlic and peppers.
Use a plump head of garlic, choosing the outer chubbier cloves. Try to get cloves that haven’t sprouted yet, though that can be difficult, depending on the time of the year. If the tip of the clove has a green spot, cut each one in half lengthwise and pull out the green sprout, if there is one. If many of the cloves have sprouts, add an extra clove to make up for what you’ve had to take out.
If your crushed red pepper flakes have been around the kitchen for longer than you can remember, it’s probably time to buy some new ones. The peppers should be pungently hot.
The flat leaf Italian parsley should be dark green and fresh with no wilted leaves.
You can make the sauce while the water is coming to the boil or when the pasta is cooking. Don’t let the oil get too hot or the garlic and peppers could burn. Thinly sliced garlic is easier to keep an eye on for burning than are tiny minced pieces, but that’s up to you.
Gently cook the garlic and peppers over medium-low to medium heat. Stir frequently and let them cook until the garlic has softened and is almost ready to turn golden around the edges. Some people like their garlic very golden or browned, but the line between browned and burned is very slight.
If you have cut the garlic in slices, you can choose to eat them or eat around them.
While you could add some shrimp or anchovies or olives to this, they are options, not necessities.
Serve this pasta with a glass of weeknight quality red wine and a salad on the side with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.
Spaghetti with Garlic and Hot Pepper Flakes
Serves 6 (or much less, if this is all you’re serving)
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus a couple tablespoons more to finish
- 6 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced or minced (about 2 tablespoons)
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (you can adjust this to taste)
- Salt to taste
- 1/4+ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
You’ll make the sauce while the water boils or while it’s coming to the boil. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add 2 tablespoons of salt. Add the spaghetti and give it a stir. Cook to al dente.
While the pasta cooks, put the oil in a large skillet that can hold the spaghetti, too. Add the garlic and pepper flakes to the oil. Cook gently over medium heat, stirring often, until the the mixture is very fragrant and the garlic has softened but not taken on any color.
Scoop out about 1/4 cup of the pasta water and set aside. Drain the spaghetti and add it to the skillet. With tongs, turn the pasta in the flavored oil. Take the skillet off the heat, cover and let sit for a minute or two. Remove the cover and turn the pasta a few times to distribute the sauce. If it seems dry, add another tablespoon or two of the pasta water. Taste for salt. Sprinkle with the parsley and turn again to mix.
Serve with a drizzle of olive oil.