This is my New World take on spaghetti aglio e olio, the legendary pasta dish!
A few years ago, my husband and I savored a plate of spaghetti aglio e olio while dining in the equally legendary Venetian restaurant, Locanda Montin. The dish was so simple: no parsley or cheese thrown on top. The pasta was tossed with fruity olive oil, garlic (loads of it), red pepper flakes and salt – nothing more. We ordered a bowl to share. Within 5 minutes we’d devoured every strand of spaghetti, so we ordered a second bowl. When our server came around to see if we wanted to order dessert, we ordered a third bowl!
Needless to say, we’ve never forgotten the experience or the taste.
This New World version of spaghetti aglio e olio is as simple as the original, but it’s spiced up with jalapeño peppers instead of red pepper flakes. As the jalapeños pan-fry, they become mellow, smoky, sweet; infusing the oil and the pasta with all their spunkiness.
A word of warning when making jalapeño pasta…
Make sure to test your jalapeños before you make this recipe. (Taste the tip of one pepper and it’ll give you an idea of its strength.) I find most commercial jalapeños fairly mild, but now and then you come across some that are quite fiery!
So here’s to spaghetti aglio e olio’s new incarnation – a bowl of pasta that might be zen-like, but that is undoubtedly memorable.
Food & wine pairing: Germany, off-dry Rielsling with spaghetti aglio e olio
An off-dry Riesling is ideal with this pasta! A German Riesling of course would be superb, but don’t overlook other regions in the world which also produce quality Rieslings. In Europe, Alsace turns out fabulous Rieslings, so do Austria and Alto Adige (Italy). In the New World, New Zealand and Australia take the lead, but Chile is not to be overlooked (look for wines from the Casablanca or Limari regions). In the United States, I am particularly fond of the Rieslings from the Finger Lakes in New York State. There’s so much to explore and enjoy!
Spaghetti with olive oil, garlic and pan-fried jalapeños
active time: 30 min
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 6 to 8 jalapeños to taste – seeded and cut lengthwise in fine julienne strips
- 12 large garlic cloves – skinned and finely sliced
- 1 tablespoon sea salt for the pasta water
- 1 lb (455 g) spaghetti
- 1/3 cup reserved pasta water
- 3/4 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
- extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
- Step 1: Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and the jalapeños, toss well and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes until the jalapeños are golden-brown at the edges, tossing only from time to time. Add the garlic, toss again and sauté for a few seconds. Be careful not to brown the garlic or it’ll become bitter. Remove from heat and set skillet aside.
- Step 2: Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. When the water is boiling, add the salt and pasta. Cook the pasta until tender but still al dente. Drain well.
- Step 3: Return the skillet to the stove over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to sizzle, add the pasta, reserved pasta water and salt. Toss well and remove from the heat. Divide into pasta bowls, drizzle with olive oil and serve immediately.