Spaghetti all’aglio e olio
400 g spaghetti
200 ml extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
large handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves,
This is one of the most basic sauces in the Italian repertoire, but when done
properly, it is a little masterpiece. In Italy, this dish is usually eaten late at
night or in the early hours for, whatever the reason you are still awake at that
time, this pasta restores you. The Romans say it was invented in their city;
the Neapolitans – scandalised, irritated and offended – say of course that
it was invented in Naples. I would like to believe that Naples is the city of
origin, simply because it seems a very Neapolitan way to deal with pasta.
The sauce is quick to prepare and can be improvised in the time it takes
to cook the pasta. Chilli is not essential, so if you don’t have any, use black
pepper instead. You can also add olives, capers and anchovies. If you are not
a big fan of garlic, infuse the oil with a subtle garlic flavour by leaving the
garlic cloves whole and warming them in the oil just until they start to colour,
then discarding them. You can also replace the parsley with basil, or use
some of each.
Cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a heavy-based frying pan over low heat and fry
the garlic for a minute or so, stirring with a wooden spoon to spread the flavour
through the oil. Add 2 tablespoons of the pasta-cooking water to the pan and stir
in the chilli and parsley. Season with salt and cook for 3 minutes, mixing every
now and then.
When the spaghetti is ready, drain it quickly so it is still rather wet and add it
to the sauce. Gently toss to coat, then leave for about 1 minute over low heat
before serving on hot plates.