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Pasta all'Aglio, Olio & Peperoncino
(Spaghetti with Garlic, Olive Oil, and Pepper)

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Larry Theobald of CycleItalia sent me this recipe. He says it's so easy even he can make it. It is one the many variants of "Pasta Rapido" in which a quick olive oil based sauce is mixed with pasta. While indeed it may be a quick meal to make, I'm very slow and methodical when I cook. I can't do too many things at once. From start to plate of pasta on the table was 50 minutes.



Step 1
An experienced cook will just get the water boiling because the rest of this is so easy. Not me. I like to prepare all of my ingredients and put them each into a little dish. Then I can just go ahead and cook the food. Peel the garlic cloves. The easiest way to do this is to cut off each end of the clove and slice it lengthwise. Then, the dry skin will either just fall off, or will be very easy to just pull it off starting from the cut side. Larry says to cut the cloves into thin slices. I diced mine. Put into one of your little dishes.

Step 2
Chop the parsley. Use fresh parsley if you can, not dried parsley. Fresh food is better. You just want the tender leaves. Break off the stalks. Then chop up enough to make about 3 slightly compressed tablespoons. Put the parsley into one of your dishes.

Step 3
Grate enough Romano cheese to make 3 tablespoons. Don't buy cheese that has been grated. As soon as the cheese has been grated, various volatile components of the cheese start to evaporate. Buy a block of cheese and grate it as you need it. My wife, Carol, says that if Romano is not close at hand, you can substitute Parmesan. Once again, grate your own. Put the cheese in one of your dishes.

Step 4
Fill the big pot with water and get it boiling. This may take 10 to 15 minutes.

Step 5
Pour the olive oil and garlic into the saute pan. Let's talk about the olive oil. Get "Extra Virgin". This is from the first pressing of the olives and is the only olive oil you should ever cook with. Different brands have different odors and flavors. Carol buys Santini from a gourmet store and it has a much finer smell than the Extra Virgin I got from the local grocery store. The better the ingredients, the better the meal.

You want to cook the garlic to a light golden color. Don't make it crispy or dark brown, or it will be bitter. Use a medium or medium low heat. It should take 5+ minutes. The oil will sizzle and bubble around the edges of the pieces of garlic. Stir it steadily as it cooks with a wooden spoon.

Step 6
Remove the pan from the heat and add the salt, pepper flakes, and roughly 1/2 of the chopped parsley. Stir it all together.

Step 7
Put the spaghetti in the pot and cook it until it is "al dente". This means firm enough to actually need your teeth to chew it. We're not making spaghetti soup like you get at a freeway offramp restaurant. Lots of cookbooks have lots of different ways to tell when the pasta is ready. None of them work for me except tasting the spaghetti. As the spaghetti starts to soften, I keep fishing out pieces to test. Stir the pasta occasionally to make sure the pieces are not sticking together. It's "al dente" when that last center section of the noodle is no longer uncooked (this will be in the neighborhood of 8-10 minutes). As you keep testing pieces you'll know what I mean. Then it's done. Don't cook it any more.

Step 8
Drain the water from the spaghetti. Either lift out the liner from the pot, or pour the whole thing into a strainer. Be careful, the very hot steam will go straight up. Keep your face and hands as much out of the way as possible. Do not rinse the pasta.

Step 9
Put the pasta back in the large pot (without the liner if you were using it to cook the pasta) Pour your oil/garlic sauce and the remaining fresh chopped parsley on the pasta and immediately start stirring and mixing it in with your big wooden spoon while cooking it over medium heat until all the spaghetti in entirely coated with the sauce.

Step 10
Turn off the heat, add the grated cheese and mix it in until it is evenly distributed.

Step 11
Serve and eat. Some may want to add a little salt.