Quick note: Veg food alert! It’s Lent, after all.
And yes, I know that is not spaghetti in the photograph. Don’t dwell on it – look at my pretty elephant pendant from Sri Lanka instead.
There’s nothing easier than a spaghetti aglio e olio. Yup, that’s the one in the restaurant that tastes so good but makes you wonder why you’re paying so much.
Because spaghetti aglio e olio is just that – spaghetti, garlic and olive oil. And the best thing is, because we’re not purists, we can dial it up with more stuff from the basic – though the basic is rather awesome in itself. The secret is to have it salted enough, garlicky enough and oily enough. And to use the best spaghetti you can get – because this is so simple, the pasta needs to be really good to showcase the oil and garlic.
500 g spaghetti100 g breadcrumbs
Small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
120 ml extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, diced (add more, if you like garlic)
3 dried chilli peppers, crushed (we used chilli flakes)
Lime juice (optional)
salt to season
Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water till just before the al dente stage. Drain, reserving a few ladles of the pasta water.
Dry-toast the breadcrumbs with the parsley until golden brown. Set aside.
In another pan, heat the olive oil, and cook the garlic and chilli peppers (or chilli flakes) for a few minutes till golden brown. Do not allow the garlic to burn or it will get bitter.
Add the cooked spaghetti to this pan and mix well. Ladle some pasta water in if it seems too dry. Cook for a minute till al dente.
I like to add a dash of lemon juice here to brighten this up.
Check the seasoning. The right amount of salt is key to a good spaghetti aglio e olio.
Just before serving, fold in the toasted breadcrumbs and parsley mixture.
Of course, I couldn’t leave well alone – so I added a small tub of Moshe’s Garlic Cream Cheese, available from our Gourmet West counter – it added a smooth creaminess to the pasta, to balance the crunch from the breadcrumbs.You could also add – and I have, in the past – blanched and salted broccoli, or sun-dried tomato strips, or cherry tomatoes, if you like them (Kevin says they are giant pus balls – so they get limited play at our table).
Anyway, at the Gourmet West counter, I also picked up the makings of a few more meals – rice paper, tortilla wraps and gnocchi. Watch out for more – or better still, tell me what you make with them.