Italian food is normally a slow affair. Hand-shaped pastas. Flame-simmered braises. Day-long sauces. But, in Florence, an Italian university student showed me one of Italy’s easiest recipes: aglio, olio e peperoncino. Garlic (aglio) and chili (peperoncino) get sauteed until fragrant in rich olive oil (olio).
Our tasty trinity is then tossed with a heaping of hot spaghetti. This is food for the kitchen clueless. Think of it as Italy’s answer to college dorm Kraft Mac. You can jazz up the oil-slicked spaghetti with a handful of chopped parsley, grated parmigiano or toasted breadcrumbs.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Pour in the spaghetti once the water boils, cooking for 9-10 minutes until al dente. Meanwhile, roughly chop the peeled garlic and peperoncini. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium. After 2 minutes of heating, add garlic to the oil. Stir frequently, sizzling the garlic until it starts to brown. This will take around 2 minutes.
Mix in the peperoncini or red pepper flakes into the oil. Cook the garlic and chili for another 30 seconds — no stirring. Before straining the pasta, pour 1 ladle-ful of starchy pasta water into the garlic-chili-oil slurry. Turn the heat to medium-high and bring this liquid to a boil. When it begins to bubble, lower the heat to a simmer. Cook the liquid for 5 minutes, allowing the browned garlic and chili to hydrate and soften in the water. Remove the liquid from the heat after 5 minutes
Strain the spaghetti and then pour it into the skillet with the garlicky water. Toss the pasta and the liquid, coating all of the spaghetti. If you’d like, you can add the chopped parsley or grated cheese at this point. Be sure to re-toss the pasta if you add herbs or parmigiano. Let the pasta sit at room temperature for 3-5 minutes; this will give the pasta time absorb some of the flavored liquid.