I came home this Monday exhausted from two weeks of travel in the Pacific Northwest. When I left New York, we hadn't fully decamped from our temporary summer home over in the Upper West Side. It was strange to come home to our brand new Brooklyn apartment, with its white walls still smelling like paint and construction dust. Having never spent a night there before leaving for my travels, the space felt like another hotel/airbnb/friend's couch.
But we're slowly getting there. There are corners that are Instagram ready (as long as you don't look outside the frame), and mementos from friends that are bringing colors to the walls. We've unpacked the boxes, Erlend's hung up the curtains, and I've color coded the kitchen cupboards (like a major dork). This space is slowly turning ours.
One thing that took us an embarrassing amount of time to do, however, was to cook our first meal there. With Jamaican patties and fried chicken a couple blocks from our doorstep, it's been easy to just fall back on meals eaten with plasticware from greasy takeout containers. And as much as I love eating out and ordering in, a house isn't really my home until I've made a mess of my own in the kitchen, dessert or otherwise.
Which is why instead of my usual baking recipe, I'm sharing this one for spaghetti aglio e olio. This was the first dinner that Erlend and I cooked together in our new apartment, and the first meal we ate with our own silverware and fancy new plates from Canvas Home. At first glance, the recipe, while comforting and tasty, is simple: just spaghetti tossed in olive oil, garlic, and chili flakes. It could easily be mistaken for just another boring weeknight recipe, and honestly — this is what makes it so special. With its comfort and simplicity, it tastes like home.
Some maker's notes:
- Traditional spaghetti aglio e olio is made with traditional flour or semolina spaghetti. For our version, I used spaghetti made from farro to try and feel better about gorging during the food festival I attended this past weekend. Pastas made from different grains will yield a slightly different taste; whole grains will make it earthier, while regular pasta will be lighter in flavor. Whatever pasta you decide to go with, just adjust accordingly for its recommended cooking times and work with my recipe from there. Watch out though — the recipe actually requires you to initially undercook the pasta at the beginning!
- Be sure to read the recipe in full and make sure to remember to reserve some pasta water for the final step in the recipe! Using regular water would work too, but the starchy pasta water makes it more creamy and flavorful.
(barely, barely adapted from Serious Eats)
- kosher salt
- 1 pound (16 ounces) dried spaghetti
- 1/2 cup olive oil, divided into 6 tablespoons and 2 tablespoons portions
- 6 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes divided into two 1 teaspoon portions, plus more to taste
- 1 stem flat-leaf parsley, minced plus more to taste
- In a pot of salted boiling water, cook spaghetti until just shy of al dente (about 1 minute less than what the package directs) — there should be a decent amount of resistance when you slice a noodle to test for doneness. Drain the spaghetti, but reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water.
- In a large skillet, combine 6 tablespoons olive oil and 6 medium cloves garlic. Add 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Cook over medium-low heat, until the garlic is very lightly golden (but not burnt — be careful here, garlic burns easily), about 5 minutes. You want the garlic to be gently sizzling the entire time.
- Transfer pasta to skillet along with 1/2 cup pasta water (from the first step), increasing the heat to high. Cook, stirring and tossing rapidly, until a creamy, emulsified sauce forms and coats the noodles. Remove from heat, and add remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and minced parsley, stirring well to combine. Serve immediately.