Spaghetti aglio oglio peperoncino (garlic, oil and chilli) is one of the most famous Roman spaghetti dishes. It’s simplicity is surprising; just 3 ingredients, cooked for few minutes, and that’s it! This quick recipe can really be named “the home cook’s emergency dish”, because no matter what kind of day you’ve had (busy, tired, in a rush, you forgot your shopping etc.) you can still feed 5 people with a blink of an eye!
In my 20s, I remember having spaghetti aglio olio peperoncino with my friends, at midnight; a quick and delicious fix if you are up in the small hours.
Ingredients (Metric & Imperial measurements)
Nutrition facts: Calories 650 per serving.
Ingredients (U.S. measurements)
Note 1: I prefer to cut the garlic cloves in slices; the more slices you have the more the garlic flavour will be released in the oil. Also, cutting the garlic in slices will help, when you dish the spaghetti, to give each guest his/her share of garlic. At the same time, slices can be easily removed after having flavoured the oil (some people like the garlic flavour but don’t want to physically eat it). Don’t chop the garlic because the tiny pieces can easily burn and become bitter; this would spoil the sauce.
Note 2: in Italy, dried chilli in the kitchen is a “must have” ingredient. We usually buy little dried red chilli pepper from south Italy, referred to by the name of “diavolicchi” (little devils). They are very hot and one of those small chilli peppers, can really put your mouth on fire! These are ideal for the preparation of sauces requiring hot chilli and once dried can be stored in a cool and dry place for more than a year. Alternatively, you can prepare the aglio olio peperoncino sauce using fresh red chilli. If the fresh chilli is very hot, you may need just one chilli pepper (use two chilli peppers if they are medium hot).
To start, roughly chop the parsley, slice the garlic cloves and cut the chilli peppers into rounds (discarding the seeds).
Fill a large pan with approximately 4 litres (1 gallon + 5/8 cup) of water. Bring the water to the boil, add the salt and then add the spaghetti.
For this recipe, cook the spaghetti until they are almost “al dente” (firm to the bite). When the spaghetti have been cooking for 5 minutes, start making the aglio olio peperoncino sauce.
To make the sauce, heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large saucepan. The heat should be gentle, to allow the oil to be infused without burning the garlic and chilli (burned garlic would spoil the sauce). Add the garlic and chilli to the pan.
Gently infuse the oil for a couple of minutes or so, until the garlic become golden in colour. Tilting the pan will allow you to better infuse the oil and it is less likely that the garlic become burned.
If your timing is correct, your spaghetti should, by now, be almost cooked al dente. Add half of the parsley into the hot sauce.
Give the sauce a quick stir and quickly drain the spaghetti, retaining half a ladle of the boiling water you have used to cook the spaghetti.
Add the drained spaghetti to the large saucepan containing the hot sauce.
Add half a ladle of the water you have used to boil the spaghetti. This water will help to create an emulsion, which will coat the spaghetti.
Toss the spaghetti, over fierce heat, for a minute or so.
Now, if you like (but it is not strictly necessary), add the remaining parsley and toss the spaghetti again for few seconds.
The spaghetti aglio olio peperoncino is ready to be served.
Plate the spaghetti and enjoy this hot dish with a glass of chilled dry white wine from the Castelli romani wine producing area.
Many people in Italy, and in Rome too, like to eat this spaghetti dish topped with some freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Purists say it is an offence; personally I think adding a bit of Pecorino cheese is fine, as long as you don’t exaggerate, otherwise the cheese flavour will overpower the typical flavour of the aglio olio peperoncino sauce.
Federico Pezzaioli is an ex-badass Italian Paratrooper on a mission - to make creating delicious authentic Italian food really easy. He researches, writes and photographs each recipe with the same attention to detail he used to apply to packing his parachute.
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