January 10, 2013

Simple Pasta Pleasures- Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino

I can get a fix on certain foods. When I waitressed in Fiesole, the first year I was living here, I fell in love with the pasta which we would often have for lunch.

We worked hard. The Italian restaurant system is different. You are paid wages and benefits by the owners, which is very, very expensive for them. Part of the deal was that I also ate there.

The restaurants are understaffed compared to their American counterparts. I WAS the staff! Schlepping cases of glass bottles of water from the downstairs cantina daily and filling the fridge. Washing the floors and putting the chairs up and down off the tables to do so. Then setting the tables to prepare for lunch service. Work was 9-4 and 6-11 six days a week. Hmmm EXHAUSTING!

When the restaurant was ready for lunch, one table was left unset. We sat down for a simple staff meal. Sometimes it was just a plate of pasta. My favorite was spaghetti with garlic, olive oil and chili peppers, one of the classics of Italian cuisine.

At the restaurant they would use the tiny birds-eye chili's and not chili pepper flakes.

The tiny chili's pack a punch with the heat, but also provide a wonderful flavor component as well.

Recently after my trip to Gragnano, home to some of Italy's BEST pasta, I discovered the secrets to using the Colatura sauce made from anchovies.

This is the more common recipe that Italians make, when the colatura is not available. I think most Italian- Americans I know do this version.

Aglio, Olio, Peperoncino with Anchovies

While the pasta is cooking prepare the sauce:
Slice one or two cloves of garlic and place in saucepan with cold extra virgin olive oil.
Cook over medium heat, letting the garlic just get golden. 
Add 2 or 3 cleaned anchovy filets and mash with the back of a spoon, so they dissolve in the sauce.
Add chili to taste.

Drain the pasta into the sauce, and finish cooking. 

Add chopped parsley.

Add breadcrumbs and toss with the pasta.
If the sauce is dry, you can add some of the pasta cooking water.
NEVER THROW AWAY THE PASTA WATER!  It is the secret ingredient in the kitchen.

Serve with a drizzle of fresh extra virgin olive oil on top.

I always would ask for extra chili. They thought I was crazy, but I still love a good spicy pasta.

If you don't like anchovy, no problem, the garlic, olive oil, chili sauce is wonderful on it's own.
It is really one of the holy trinities in the kitchen, used as a base for many dishes.

Simply adding tomato sauce and it is called arrabbiata or carrettiera sauce. Usually served with penne pasta or spaghetti.


  1. Wow, that looks fantastic, Judy. It's almost dinner time here in Reno, Nevada and I'm going to make exactly that. Many thanks!

  2. yummy photos and yummy recipe. One of THE best. How much colatura did you use instead of the anchovies?
    p.s. You certainly earned that dish of pasta!

  3. @laura - i made the aglio olio peperoncino with anchovies for this- but there recipe for the colatura in on the link!

  4. One of my favorites too, and so easy to make variations. I've been using colatura more and more, and not just for pasta. I often add it to soups, at the very end, to give it that umami woomf!

  5. i love it on veggies!!!

  6. This pasta is a stand-by for week day dinners at our house. Love it. I've been meaning to try colatura for quite some time now. So hard to find here, except online…

  7. Anonymous10:28 PM

    How much olive oil?

  8. italians are very free and easy about olive oil- I always think-- just use how much butter you would use--- 1-2 tbs per person