Most of you probably know by now, that one of my greatest challenges as a picky eater is finding pasta dishes that are publicly acceptable. Because honestly, most nights when we have pasta I heat up some tomato sauce (from a jar!) for Gerrit and then top my pasta with only butter and Parmesan cheese and call it a meal. When I was younger and I went over to someone’s house for dinner or we had dinner at church or something of the sort and spaghetti was served, I always always (and still do) asked for my noodles plain. Whoever had cooked said meal often felt really bad, as if I wasn’t eating a full meal because I wasn’t having the tomato sauce, and I had to do a lot of convincing to make them believe that I was really truly happier that way and did not feel left out at all.
To date most of the pasta recipes I have shared with you here have involved cream in some form or fashion. Because, let’s be honest, a creamy sauce is the easiest way to make people forget we’re not having tomato sauce. But I want to be able to use more than just cream to disguise what we’re missing. And so we have a new favorite: spaghetti with garlic and olive oil.
Technically this is called spaghetti aglio e olio, but I think most of us are probably a little rusty on our Italian so I thought I’d be a little clearer in the recipe title here. Apparently this is also known in chef circles as “midnight spaghetti” because it is so simple and fast to make that chefs make it for themselves when they get home from the restaurant at midnight.
And even though it’s not as simple as heating up jarred tomato sauce for your husband, it still takes about 20 minutes. You let thinly sliced garlic cook in the olive oil until it is sweet and fragrant and then you add in spaghetti and plenty and cheese and toss it all together until it forms and kind of sauce all on its own. It is a sauce that is slick with olive oil, just like any good Italian sauce seems that it should be, and full of sweet garlic flavors. And the cheese makes the noodles almost creamy (but I swear, I’m not giving you another creamy sauce here). It works for a casual weeknight dinner, and even though I’ll still be breaking out the jarred sauces on a regular basis, at least we now have an alternative.
Spaghetti Aglio e Olio (Spaghetti with Garlic and Olive Oil)
adapted from Ina Garten
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
1 lb. dried spaghetti
1/3 cup olive oil
8 garlic cloves, peeled and slivered
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes*
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced**
1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Before draining the pasta, reserve 1 1/2 cups pasta water. Drain the pasta and set aside.
2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet or saute pan. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is fragrant and the edges are beginning to turn slightly golden brown. Add the red pepper flakes (or leave them out if you’d like) and cook for 30 more seconds. Then add the reserved pasta water and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt and let the liquid simmer until it is reduced by about 1/3.
3. Add the pasta and the cheese and toss the pasta together. Remove from the heat and add the parsley, and toss together. Let the pasta sit for just a couple of minutes so that the sauce absorbs, and then serve warm with extra cheese for topping.
*Or no red pepper. I rarely ever add red pepper flaked in recipes that call for it because my tongue just cannot handle it.
**Ina says 1/2 minced parsley, but I feel like that’s a little much and preferred to have about 1/2 cup of whole parsley that is then minced.