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 jalapeños 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, 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.
Heat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and the jalapeños, toss well, and sauté until the jalapeños are golden brown at the edges, tossing only occasionally, for 5-6 minutes. 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 the heat and set aside.
Bring the water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. When the water is boiling, add the salt and pasta. Cook the pasta until tender but still al dente. Drain well and reserve some pasta water.
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.