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 whose ingredients can be pulled out of the cupboard and turned into a glorious meal in about 15 minutes. In all its simplicity, or maybe because of its simplicity, it is a favorite of many, and makes regular appearances at my table.
- Salt for pasta pot and to taste
- 1 pound spaghettini or vermicelli
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 10 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
- ½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, or more to taste
- ½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 1 cup freshly grated Grana Padano cheese (optional)
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Stir the spaghettini into the boiling water. Return to a boil, stirring frequently, and cook, semi-covered, until the pasta is tender but still very firm, about 6 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, shaking the skillet, until pale golden, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the crushed hot red pepper. Ladle about 1 ½ cups of the pasta-cooking water into the sauce; then add the parsley, the remaining olive oil, and salt to taste, and bring to a boil.
Fish out the pasta with a large wire skimmer and drop it directly into the sauce in the skillet. Bring the sauce and pasta to a simmer, tossing to coat pasta with sauce. Cook about 1 minute. Remove the pot from the heat, and toss in the grated cheese if using. Check the seasoning, adding salt and crushed red pepper if necessary. Serve immediately in warm bowls.