Spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino is an Italian classic. When someone says, “Facciamo due spaghetti,” or in Roman dialect “Famose du’ spaghetti” more often than not he or she intends spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino – spaghetti cooked al dente and coated with a soffritto of garlic and crushed red chili peppers sautéed in olive oil. It’s quick, inexpensive, and quintessentially Italian.
Spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino is prepared from the North to the South, with slight regional variations. Some add chopped flat leaf parsley, while others include bread crumbs. There are differing opinions on whether pecorino romano cheese should be sprinkled on top; our version includes it.
From time to time, it’s fun to dress up spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino. We recently had some left over ricci di mare (sea urchin in English, and perhaps better known to some by its Japanese name, uni). Added to spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino, ricci di mare provide a sublime, delicate flavor and a slightly creamy texture to the dish, turning a simple and humble recipe into an elegant plate of pasta.
Ingredients for 4 people
One pack of spaghetti
2 cloves of garlic
Crushed red pepper, approximately 1 teaspoon or to taste
1 cup olive oil
Sea salt, preferably coarse grain, such as Kosher salt.
Pecorino romano, OR
Approximately 2 oz. or 50-60 grams sea urchin and flat leaf Italian parsely
*Purchase sea urchin fresh or frozen at a seafood specialty store. In the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area, it can be found at Coastal Seafoods.
Place a large pot of water to boil over high heat. When the water boils, toss a handful of salt into the water, and add the spaghetti. Cook the spaghetti to al dente according to the directions on the package.
While the spaghetti is cooking, mince the garlic and place the oil into a large pan. 5 minutes before the spaghetti is done, sauté the garlic and red pepper in the olive oil over medium heat, paying careful attention to not burn the garlic.
Drain the spaghetti, preserving one cup of the cooking water. Return the spaghetti to the pan with the garlic, oil and red pepper. Add the water, and stir it all together over medium heat for a couple of minutes.
If you are having the traditional recipe, serve hot with grated pecorino romano on top.
If you opt to dress it up with sea urchin, add the sea urchin with the garlic and crushed red pepper sauté, gently breaking it up with a fork or wooden spoon. Skip the pecorino romano in this version, but if you wish you may add a single sea urchin to the top of each plate.