Disclaimer: This is in no way an authentic version of the Roman classic dish of spaghetti with garlic, oil and hot red pepper flakes. I have lived in Italy, I have had (and made) the real aglio- olio….and it is sublime in its balance and simplicity. I am not trying to improve on perfection. I am just adapting it to my imperfect life!
My adaptation is also pretty sublime, simple and balanced, but it is definitely not the original. So with apologies to Patrizia and Sandro (whose agonized “No!” when he saw me add cheese to the dish once still reverberates in my head) and any other Roman who happens upon this recipe…here we go!
This is a version that I cooked up in 15 minutes this week at a windy beachside campsite on a propane camp stove for me and my pre-K camper (who has just — thank heavens — made the breakthrough to spicy food). So convenient and successful, I made it twice over the week. I also sometimes add broccoli crowns to the pasta water when there are about four minutes left in the boil
Aglio, olio e peperoncino (adapted for camping)
The classic Roman versión uses spaghetti, but that is currently too messy for my kid. I like a tube-y or curly pasta. For the purposes of our camp kitchen I used three-minute rotini – a pasta that boils up in three minutes. It is decidedly flabby compared to regular pasta, but was adequate for the less fussy camping life. I actually prefer Bionaturae’s organic whole wheat pastas in this dish; they add a nutty flavor that I like very much. This is also a one pot dish (except for the colander) which is great when you haven’t got running water!
Serves two, but is quite easy to double up
½ lb pasta of your choice (preferably spaghetti or something long and lean rather than scoopy. If you choose the broccoli option, penne is a good choice)
(one or two handfuls broccoli florets; optional)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 to ¼ tsp hot red pepper flakes
1/4 cup grated grana padano or parmigiano reggiano
Boil the pasta according to package instructions, making sure to salt the water well. If using broccoli, add to the pasta water 3-4 minutes before the pasta is fully cooked. Drain and reserve in a separate bowl or the colander. In the same pot that you cooked the pasta, add the olive oil, lowering heat to medium. When the olive oil is loose and fragrant, add the garlic and red pepper flakes (to taste) and stir around until the garlic is golden (not brown). Add the pasta (and broccoli) back to the pot and mix well, adding grated cheese. Serve!