I remember the first time we made pasta at home. I think it was sometime around the second grade. Spaghetti had just hit the market and it was all the rage. I remember my mom learning different sauces: marinara, Alfredo, and a mix of both. We started by making pasta with just the sauce and then slowly started adding veggies: zucchini, broccoli, and mushrooms being the norm. I also remember the first time we had our cook make pasta. She had no idea how to make anything like this before and mom had given her a slew of instructions, one of which I think did not translate well. Instead of adding any of the traditional Italian spices: oregano, basil, red pepper flakes; our cook decided to add traditional Indian spices: cumin, cinnamon, cloves, and bay leaf. Trust me when I say this, cumin and pasta are almost as bad a combination as a khaki pant with a black belt (k, it could be worse. I just see this way too much and it bothers me!).
My mom used to work at a company that helped source and design home products. Her apex client at the time was Pottery Barn and she absolutely adored them. She resonated with the product and most importantly the clients. One of the clients was this Italian American lady who really hit it off with her and they began sharing recipes. This was when mum learned about Aglio e Olio. We never searched for a recipe, rather just followed the directions given to us by her client. Garlic, oil, red pepper flakes, and pasta. It was love at first sight and the first time I realized that a dish can taste better than the sum of all of its ingredients. We ate this as Friday night dinner for years (the reason for all my chub). We had ditched the veggies and went straight for this dry yet smooth pasta with a hit of burnt garlic pieces and (sometimes) chicken thigh pieces that were cooked a little longer on high heat in order for the sides to be crisp but the middle to still remain juicy. This recipe has been in our house for almost 10 years now and not much changed until I got interested in making food and began nitpicking all the ways in which we cook.
Now, I can’t change the version the house is used to. Palates register a certain flavor and when something is close but the not the same, more often than not it seems to reject it. However, I was open to learning and began finding ways to cook this in a way to extract more flavor from the dish. Aglio e Oglio is basically just spaghetti in garlic infused oil. Its one of the simple Italian recipes and is quite literally idiot proof (yes Morgan, I did just call you an idiot). However, to master this one must learn some simple techniques. Boil the pasta while you thinly slice garlic. On medium to low heat, add a skillet with a 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and add garlic until the aromatics of the garlic is imparted into the oil. This is when you add chili flakes, pasta, some pasta water, and you’re all done! Adding some fresh parsley or basil (I like the latter) gives it some life and the juice of half a lemon cuts through the fat.
Make this amazing pasta today. Its great for a quick meal or dates! Even Scarlet Johansson agrees.
200 grams of Spaghetti (a big fistful)
1 whole garlic, thinly sliced (the thinner the better)
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
50 grams of flat leaf parsley or basil roughly chopped
Pinch of red chili flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
In a pot boil well salted water and cook pasta al dente based on the instructions on the back of the packet. Use this time to slice your garlic.
Place a skillet on medium-low heat. Add garlic and let it sit until you start seeing some color on the garlic. Kill the heat and add pepper flakes. Keep the oil moving and mixing.
Remove the pasta and save some of the pasta water. Add the pasta, mix well, and add pasta water as needed. You can turn on the heat if you added too much water. This will help evaporate some of that moisture.
Add the greens, lemon juice, and salt + pepper. Mix well and consume.