I can’t believe that I have been blogging for three years now, and have not mentioned the recipe for spaghetti aglio e olio. It is a staple for Italian families. For such a simple dish, it has many facets to it, and several medicinal properties….or so we Italians think. Many believe that a big bowl of this after a night of excessive drinking, will sober you up and ward off a hangover. Others believe that this dish will settle an upset stomach. When hungry, and there is very little in the pantry, you can always find garlic and oil, and this will fill your stomach as well as your soul. For some Italians, this is a traditional Christmas Eve dish, as it is in my family. There is also a running dispute among Italians with regards to anchovies or no anchovies. This then leads to the next question, if there is fish in the sauce (anchovies), should you use grated cheese? The addition of red pepper flakes is also a personal choice. It’s definitely a question of taste. My mom almost always added anchovies, so this is my preference, but it is wonderful without as well. I’ll leave this part up to you.
I’m not quite sure how this dish of pasta became a late night snack for Italians, but it is not usually served as dinner. One of my fondest childhood memories is watching my parents, aunts and uncles come back to our house after they had been at a Christmas party or out to dinner, and my mom would whip up a few pounds of spaghetti aglio e olio. They’d sit at the dining room table, talking, laughing and eating with gusto. The heavenly smell would wake us. Our stomachs would rumble with hunger as my sister, brother and I hid at the top of the stairs watching….salivating….hoping to be seen so they would invite us down for a taste. Heaven!
Another memory, that I still find incredible, was after a 6 hour wedding reception in Italy for 500 people, which consisted of 8 courses, three of which were pasta courses, the father of the bride announced that at 11:30 PM, spaghetti aglio e olio would be served. I honestly thought it was a joke. Who could eat another thing? I felt like I would explode. It was no joke when they brought out bowls and bowls and more bowls of piping hot, cooked to perfection, al dente, spaghetti aglio e olio! It was crazy! But it was delicious, may I add. I think it made my stomach ache go away, and sobered me right up. It truly is a miracle dish!
So the next time you are looking for a delicious midnight snack, all you need is about 20 minutes to sooth your hunger. By the time the pasta cooks, your sauce will be made, and you can go to bed happy, full and will enjoy a peaceful nights sleep.
RECIPE: serves 4
1 pound spaghetti
6 cloves garlic, sliced rather thin
1/2 cup of fabulous olive oil
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper ( optional, but do it)
4 canned anchovies filets (optional)
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/2 cup grated parmigiano cheese (ONLY if not using anchovies)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Put a large pot of water up to boil.
- Warm garlic and oil in a fry pan. Add red pepper, if using. Saute until garlic is golden.
- Shut off heat and add half the parsley and anchovies, if using. Stir until anchovies are dissolved.
- Cook spaghetti until al dente, saving 1 cup of pasta water ( water from the pot where the pasta is cooking).
- Add the pasta water to the fry pan and heat through.
- Add sauce to the pasta in a large bowl, and mix well. Add the rest of the parsley, and freshly ground pepper.
- If not using anchovies, you can add the grated parmigiano cheese now, or simply pass it.
- Dig in with gusto, for dinner or a late-night snack!
Mmmmm! You Italians know how to party!