Aglio olio con peperoncino is a beautifully elegant, authentic Italian pasta dish. It’s sheer simplicity is it’s genius, with intermingling flavours of garlic, olive oil and chilli creating a sensational dish that takes just minutes to prepare.
Today, I realised that I’m completely pre-occupied by the thoughts in my head. They’re always there, incessantly telling me what to do and what not to do, what I will do and what I won’t, what I’m supposed to be doing, but not doing. It’s tireless, which makes it equally exhausting at the same time. These thoughts rarely achieve anything, aside from distracting me from the actual task in hand, whatever that may be; working, relaxing, eating, cooking, listening, talking, thinking etc.
How to be Grateful.
Last night I was chatting to a friend about gratitude, the idea that we can become grateful and happy, simply by saying we are. Equally, we perpetuate sadness and morosity when we constantly tell people that’s how we feel. I’ve met many people who maintain that regularly writing a gratitude list, or setting aside time to be thankful for what we have in life, allows us to take on the feelings that we talk about. It’s the idea of “fake it ’til you make it”, if you say you are happy constantly, eventually, you really will be.
Whether You Like it or Not, You’re Being Judged.
One of Sartre’s ideas captured my imagination and inspired me recently. He claimed it is only what we do in life that defines us as human beings, regardless of intention and inner essence, we are judged only by our actions. I can’t get the concept out of my head, why is this so important to me?
It goes back the beginning of this post. Being obsessed with my thoughts will not progress my life in any way whatsoever, it will not achieve anything, it will not help me to create and develop my own world. Conversely, if I act, I will be judged by those actions, so being happy, confident and grateful, regardless of whether I feel those things, will bring more of those qualities into my life. If I tell someone I’m grateful, they’ll go away thinking “he’s such a grateful person”. Additionally, because humans are like mirrors, when someone says they’re sad, the person receiving that information also feels sad, equally, when someone smiles, laughs and says they’re happy, we smile and laugh with them.
Ultimately, our entire world around us is a reflection of the personality that we put out. Therefore, the only person that can change the world I live in, is me. And the only way changes will occur, is through action, regardless of whether I feel like it or not, it’s the only way.
I guess you’re hungry after all that?
A few years ago I had a girlfriend whose mother had lived in Italy for several years. Although she wasn’t a regular Mrs Beeton, she did pick up some great culinary tips, the favourite being a recipe for Aglio olio con peperoncino, which translates as garlic, oil and chilli, which she often prepared for dinner guests.
The spirit of simplicity being the hallmark of a certified genius manifests strongly within this recipe. There are very few ingredients, yet so much you can get wrong. The most important part, is the garlic. Gentle treatment of the garlic is vital as it’s only it’s gentle flavour we want, rather than large clumps of fried garlic proliferating throughout the dish. Letting it’s flavour gently cook itself into the oil allows it’s delightfully aromatic flavour to spread throughout the final dish by way of a catalyst – olive oil. Beyond that, there’s not much else to it, a few slices of chilli, some delicate parsley and you’re all done.
I’ve been advised in the past to use the deceptively cute little peperoncino chillis which are damn hard to find in the UK. They’re small, potent little things which have a real kick and a lovely flavour. If you find them, use them, however they’re not a prerequisite, so resorting to the stalwart of a red chilli from the supermarket will do in this instance.
Eating this aglio olio con peperoncino is a beautifully simple pleasure, in the way that Italians manage to nail simple culinary pleasures so often. The gentle, garlicky oil wraps it’s wings around the slithery spaghetti with the kick of the chilli running up behind when you’re not looking. With lashings of grated Italian cheese atop, it’s sheer bliss.
Don’t be fooled into thinking a bowl of pasta with more ingredients will be better, because any fool can make something complicated. Simplicity, however, is the work of a genius.
Aglio Olio con Peperoncino – Garlic Oil Chilli Spaghetti
By Gavin Wren
Uses a large saucepan and a frying pan
200g wholewheat dried spaghetti
3 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed under a knife and peeled
1 red chilli, sliced
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Parmesan or Pecorino to serve
Heat the oil in a frying pan over a low heat. Add the crushed garlic cloves and cook for 5 minutes, watching that they become golden on the edges, but take care they don’t burn. Turn them over once whilst cooking.
Remove the garlic cloves from the pan, then add the sliced chilli, the cooked pasta, 4 tablespoons of the pasta water and the parsley. Stir it around until well mixed.
Serve on plates, topped with freshly ground salt and pepper, plus as much of the cheese as your heart desires.