It’s called aglio e olio; garlic and oil. My rudimentary Italian parses that out as AH-lee-oh ee OH-lee-oh. My father would, and still does, pronounce it liked he was fresh off a stroke, ahl-ya-ohl-ya. It’s a simple pasta sauce made up of scorching hot oil and minced garlic, and usually served with crushed red pepper and grated cheese. It’s quick. It’s easy. It’s cheap.
When I was a kid, I knew that The Parents had whiffed on dinner when my father would soberly slur ahlyaohlya. He might as well have said, “Kids. We give up. Dinner is boiling oil and pasta.”
The wave of artisanal olive oils have made aglio e olio palatable. A lemon-infused oil makes this quite good, as do the various herbal offerings that are abound. But, this was the 1980s, so we were getting olive oil from a large steel can. (I can hear my father. “You can’t taste the difference between the $3.99 a gallon stuff and that $10 a bottle shit you buy. It’s the same God damn oil.”)
What Food and Wine does here is give aglio e olio a willing partner in the form of mushrooms. Mushrooms will sweat liquid, but not enough to create a sauce to coat a pound of thin spaghetti. Good olive oil, mixed with the liquid extracted from the mushroom, offers the proper balance and a generous coating for the pasta.
WHAT WORKED: Simplicity. It was less than 30 minutes to prep and cook.
WHAT DIDN’T: Apparently, the crushed red pepper was too much for The Wife.
WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: “This is really hot.” Seriously, I opened the container and shook it twice. There may have been 8 or 9 flakes in the oil.
WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: Yes, and next time I want to try a lemon- or herb-infused oil with it.
Spaghettini with Mushrooms, Garlic, and Oil
Adapted from Food & Wine
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/8 tsp. dried red-pepper flakes
- 10 oz. white mushrooms, sliced
- 1 pound spaghettini or thin spaghetti (they are the same thing)
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt generously and cook pasta per the directions on the box (Barilla says 6 to 7 minutes).
Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms, season with salt, and cook. The mushrooms will sweat and begin to brown after about 5 minutes. Don’t let them brown too much.
Drain the pasta and transfer to a large serving bowl. Pour in mushrooms and oil. Toss with a couple of twists of black pepper and grated Pecorino Romano cheese.