I’ve just come back from what I’d describe as a week of taste bud endurance training in Naples and the surrounding area – I’ll brief you with all the culinary details in another post. In the meantime, however, the trip reminded me that food doesn’t need to be complicated to be delicious. Find a restaurant that prides itself on great local ingredients and you’ll know that ordering a simple plate of polpo e patate (octopus and potato salad), will be the best decision you’ve ever made.
The trip left me with a longing for such simple food. So much so, that the first thing I did on returning to London, was make something you’ll find in every Primi section in Neapolitan restaurants. Spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino: the first of 3 posts I’ll write that celebrate simple spaghetti recipes, with no compromise on the more-ishness!
Each of the 3 dishes, this one especially, have few ingredients and can be made in less than 20 minutes. Perfect for whipping up after a busy day at work. Ask any Italian what their staple plate of pasta is when they come home from a night out – I bet you they say this one. If you can make it when you’re roaring drunk, it’s testament to how simple it is! The only catch with simplicity is to use the best ingredients you can lay your hands on. You’ll definitely taste the difference – you’re welcome Sainsburys – when it comes to these 3 spaghetti heroes.
Serves 2; 5 mins prep; 15 mins cook.
50ml good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed whole
1 fresh red chilli, chopped, seeds removed
1 heaped tbsp parsley, freshly chopped
Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add salt and a little fresh parsley to flavour the water. Add your spaghetti.
In a large frying pan gently heat the olive oil over a medium flame. Keeping the pan over a medium heat, add the crushed garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes. Then add the chopped chilli and cook for a further 2 minutes. Remove the garlic clove; don’t worry if some bits are left behind. Finally add in the chopped parsley and take off the heat for 2 minutes.
Take out a cup (250ml) of pasta water, and carefully pour half of it into the frying pan with the oil. Put the pan back on the heat and reduce for 2 minutes.
When the pasta is pre- al dente stage, about two thirds through its cooking time, drain it and toss into the frying pan. Season and give it a good old stir for a couple of minutes or until the spaghetti are nicely al dente.
As well as continuing to cook the pasta, this stage also helps infuse the flavours, and stops the dish from drying out. As you stir, just make sure there is enough liquid in the pan to help cook the pasta. If it dries out, add a little more pasta water, a bit like when making risotto.
Plate it up, garnish with any leftover parsley, and start twirling.
Ed e’ tutto, that’s all!
Let me know what you think of this more-ish Neapolitan classic in the comments section below. Ciao.