While we all may secretly (or not so secretly) harbor Walter Mitty-esque dreams of grandeur sometimes it’s the simple things that make you think, “Life is good.” Like everyone I find myself getting sucked into the busy-ness of day to day living; running from here to there putting out smoldering fires, juggling overlapping timelines that I could have sworn were farther apart, and basically feeling like I’m being dragged in five different directions simultaneously. This last week was a whirlwind of get togethers, street fairs, overdue household projects, deadlines, and 60+ miles of cycling around town trying to make the most of the fading summer. And while it was definitely necessary and for the most part fun, it’s good to be able to take a deep breath and step back. Sigh. This rustic Italian classic draws upon the simple flavors that keep you coming back for more; the zesty aromatic garlic, spicy pepper that wakes up your taste buds, savory salt, and the sharp slightly bitter parsley balances out the unctuous olive oil. And I find that the combination of the toothy fresh spaghetti and crisp herbed parmesan breadcrumbs add a nice texture contrast to this flavor medley. In this case, because this dish is so simple and spare, you really get an opportunity to taste the ingredients and you’ll find that the fresher the ingredients you use, the more you’ll be able see it in your bowl at the end of your labors. I find that with simple recipes like this, fresh pasta adds to the sensory enjoyment as the tender yet springy texture is really hard to achieve with dried spaghetti. The same can be said for the sharp greeness of the fresh flat leaf (Italian) parsley versus its dried counterpart that seems to mainly impart color rather than any specific flavor. So take a deep breath and get ready for dinner in 22 minutes flat :).
Tips? No tips for you. This dish is just that easy. For reals.
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp (1/4 clove) crushed garlic
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c breadcrumbs (I prefer Japanese panko as they’re crispier so provide more crunch)
1 tsp fresh flat-leaf (also called Italian) parsley, minced
1 tbsp finely grated parmesan
Heat olive oil in the same large sauté pan you will be using to make the sauce below, on medium heat till aromatic but not smoking. Sauté garlic till golden ~ 1 minute. Mix in salt then add panko and sauté till golden brown ~ 2 minutes. The oil will clump up with the panko but that’s okay, it will all mix together to make a dry seasoned breadcrumb mixture. Remove from heat and mix in parsley and parmesan. Set panko mixture aside in a small bowl.
Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 tsp ( cloves) crushed garlic
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (depending on how spicy you want it)
1 + 2 tsp salt
2 tbsp fresh (or 2 tsp dried) flat-leaf parsley, minced
1 lb fresh spaghetti
Boil water and 1 tsp salt in a large ~ 8 quart pot. Set timer for recommended cooking time on pasta package and cook till al dente.
While spaghetti is cooking, in a large sauté pan or wide pan with a lip at least 2-3 inches deep, heat olive oil on medium till aromatic but not smoking ~ 30-45 seconds. Sauté garlic till golden ~ 1 minute. Mix in crushed red pepper and 2 tsp salt and sauté for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat but keep in pan till spaghetti is done cooking. Mix in parsley with olive oil mixture. Add half of spaghetti to pan and mix with sauce. Add remaining pasta and combine well (I find that using tongs works best for this as the spaghetti can break or escape from the pan with stirring or folding). Serve in pasta or shallow bowls and sprinkle with herbed parmesan breadcrumbs to taste. Makes 4 servings.