Once you’ve made this recipe, you’ll come back to it again and again. It is so simple, it seems a crime to even call it cooking. As long as you have excellent ingredients, it’s a sure thing: you cannot screw this one up. Everyone in Italy has their own version of spaghetti all’olio e aglio—people swear that their recipe is the original one. Such a fuss over a dish that has just six basic ingredients and is prepared in under 15 minutes. We use whatever long pasta we have in the pantry, but we all agree that bavette are the best: shaped like a compressed oval, they are thin on the ends like spaghetti but thick in the center like linguine. This slightly thicker type of pasta is the perfect base for this simple sauce; it gives the finished dish a more satisfying texture.
This is something that can be served as a primo when the secondo is rich and heavy, on its own with an abundant mixed salad, as a quick late-night snack or even at a fancy dinner party. My earliest impression of this dish was back in graduate school, when time was ample and money scarce. We were invited over to Ottavio’s apartment after class for a glass of wine with the rest of the grad students in attendance. As we were standing around drinking wine and discussing everything but Italian literature, our friend Eduardo came along unexpectedly and handed me a small plate of this simple but delicious pasta. I still think this is one of the most luxurious things I have ever eaten, the basic flavors are a symphony when put together. Together with a glass of wine, you will wont for nothing. I have often served this as a final course during a cocktail party, with great success. Whatever the occasion, this is sure to please by food lovers of all ages.
In a large stock pot bring to a boil:
6 liters of water
2 tsp coarse salt
500 grams (1.1 lb) long pasta (preferably bavettine or the even more traditional spaghetti)
Cook the pasta, strictly adhering to the manufacturer’s directions.
In a large pan, add:
5 T best-quality olive oil
Heat on low and gently sauté:
3 cloves of garlic
1 dried chili pepper, cut in half with seeds removed
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Drain pasta. Remove olive oil mixture from the heat and immediately add the drained pasta to the pan. With a serving fork, toss to coat the pasta.
Grate into pasta:
2 T/1 oz pecorino romano
Toss quickly, turn out onto a platter and serve immediately.
TIPS FOR SUCCESS:
• Be careful not to overcook the garlic, as it turns bitter when cooked too long. The oil should never get too hot, as the olive flavor will lose not just its golden color but its fruitiness, too.
• As the pasta is cooking, make the sauce.
•Splitting the chili pepper and removing the seeds allows it to impart flavor to the oil without creating intense spiciness and can easily be removed for a milder version.
Luxury Touch: As you gently fry the garlic, add 2 or more anchovy filets. These will disintegrate, adding another dimension of flavor to the finished pasta.