For 1 pound of pasta
This is the quintessential Italian pasta: just about everyone in Italy knows how to make it and loves it. It is one of those magical dishes that the ingredients can be pulled out of the cupboard and turned into a glorious dish in about 15 minutes. In all its simplicity, or maybe due to its simplicity, it is a favorite of many and makes regular appearances at my table.
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if you want
- 5 plump garlic cloves, sliced (about 1/3 cup)
- ¼ teaspoon dried pepperoncino (hot red pepper flakes), or more to taste
- Hot water from the pasta-cooking pot
- ¼ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 1 cup freshly grated Grana Padano
Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.
If using dry pasta, plunge it into the boiling water 5 minutes before starting the sauce; fresh pasta is added at the same time you start the sauce. Pour 3 tablespoons of the oil into the big skillet, scatter the garlic slices in the oil and set over medium heat. Cook for a minute, add the peperoncino and cook another minute, shaking the pan now and then, until the garlic slices are an even light gold.
Ladle in 2 cups of boiling pasta water (watch out for sizzling spatters) and cook rapidly for 2 to 3 minutes, reducing the liquid by a third or so. Taste the sauce; add salt as needed. Keep at low simmer until the pasta is ready. When the pasta is not quite done al dente, bring the sauce to an active simmer, and then dump the pasta in.
Finish the sauce and pasta by tossing them together in the skillet over low to moderate heat until the pasta is tender to the bite. If the dish is dry, incorporate more hot pasta water; if soupy, reduce with higher heat and a bit more cooking. Add the parsley during the initial tossing; off the heat toss in the cheese and the final tablespoon of olive oil just before serving.