Oh my, has it been a doozy of a week. We had a major plumbing debacle in our home, leaving us without water (save for one bathroom) and necessitating countless hours of incredibly unpleasant work. Physically exhausting, yes, but emotionally exhausting too as I was faced with sorting through dozens and dozens of boxes containing my mother’s belongings. I just wasn’t ready. Even though it’s been more than three years since she died. Is anyone ever really ready?
My sister Kathy’s words “her things are not her, remember that so you can let them go” helped nudge me through it. That, and my husband’s limitless patience. What took us at least 30 hours could have taken a lot less time had I not had to hold each object and explain to him where it came from or why it was special. Everything from her beat up kitchen measuring cups to my grandmother’s keepsakes from her trans-Atlantic cruise on the Île de France in 1937. He earned about a thousand gold stars, that one.
How does Spaghetti Aglio e Olio fit into this story? I will tell you. It’s one of the simplest comfort foods you can imagine, made from ingredients you almost always have on hand. And it is utterly delicious. Sometimes you just need to stay home and tuck into a bowl of something warm and familiar.
Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
This classic Italian dish comes together in less than 20 minutes. I zing it up with lemon zest and a healthy sprinkling of Parmigiano-Reggiano. This time I used a combination of flat leaf and curly parsley because I have both in the garden right now, but you can use either. I do suggest pulling out your good olive oil for this recipe – with so few ingredients, the quality of each stands out.
1 pound dried spaghetti or angel hair pasta
2/3 cup good extra virgin olive oil
6 large garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
zest of a lemon
3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with a tablespoon of salt. Add pasta and cook for a minute less than cooking time on package, stirring occasionally. Reserve a cup of pasta water, then drain.
While pasta is cooking, place olive oil, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, and a small splash of pasta water into a large saute pan. Gently heat over medium-low until garlic has softened and is just beginning to turn light golden, about 6 minutes. Reduce heat to very low and stir in lemon zest and parsley. Add drained pasta and 1/4 cup pasta water to pan and toss until spaghetti is is thoroughly coated. Ladle in more pasta water if needed to keep pasta loose. Turn off heat and stir in grated cheese. Test for seasoning, adding kosher salt and more crushed red pepper flakes if needed. Serve with extra grated Parm.