For most people, the holy trinity means the Catholic theological doctrine of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. For those in the culinary world, it usually means carrots, celery and onion. But for me, it really is olio, aglio & peperoncino (oil, garlic and pepper). On busy weeknights, it is your best friend. Heat up some garlic and crushed red pepper flakes in a pool of extra virgin olive oil and you have the base for a flavorful, fast meal in minutes. Throw in cooked spaghetti, spinach, green beans, or broccolini. Or use it to dress up fish or chicken breasts before grilling. Remember to filter out the pieces of garlic and pepper, of course, otherwise it burns. Once you do that, the whole thing becomes a super versatile garlic and pepper infused oil.
I first came across it in one of my first cookbooks, Giada’s Everyday Italian. I didn’t even take a second glance until my semester abroad in Rome. Seriously, a protein-less meal? But restaurants actually had it on their menu. And the prospect of a home cooked meal for basically the price of a box of spaghetti was more than appealing to my broke college student self.
But even after Rome, after getting married, when I found myself cooking for a guy with the overstimulated palette of a south asian, the combination of these three ingredients amped up the flavor of just about any meal.
I made this most recently the classic way. I think it’s a dish best served simply, with basil or parmigiano (though, to be honest, I haven’t tried it with the medley of herbs that Giada tops it with). Mangia bene!
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis.
- 1 pound dried spaghetti
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
- 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes (1 tsp if you can’t take the heat)
- fresh parmigiano reggiano and/or basil chiffonade to top
- In a large pot, bring six quarts of water to a boil. Add a handful of salt and add pasta. Cook six to eight minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Meanwhile, heat olive oil over low heat. Add garlic and pepper and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Remove from heat.
- In a large bowl, add the pasta using a pair of tongs, keeping the cooking liquid in the pot. Add the oil, a ladle of the pasta water and toss to combine. Top with Parmigiano Reggiano, Basil, Pecorino Romano, Parsley – whatever you like!