This is perhaps the hardest easiest pasta sauce to prepare.
The easiest because it requires few ingredients. Hard because it can so easily go ‘wrong’ if not supervised with tender love and attention and without the benefit of a huge appetite.
This is the classic pasta dish to make at 2 o’clock in the morning when you’ve come home after a night out and though it’s bedtime, you can’t for the life of you understand why you’re so damn hungry! It is also the classic pasta dish to make when you come home and realise with despair that there is nothing in the larder (or rather nothing that appeals to you in the larder) and you’ve got to leave in a little while and have to eat something to keep your pecker up! In other words, never make this dish unless you are properly hungry.
We had just got home after a short trip to London last January, and it was almost midnight. We were tired and hungry and in a bit of a post-holiday bad mood and I wasn’t about to bend over backwards to redeem the situation without support from other family members. Thus, knowing that this support was unlikely to be proffered, I suggested I make spaghetti aijo, oijo e peperoncino (that’s the Roman spelling of this dish and the ‘j’ is pronounced as if it were a ‘y’) … everyone was happy and relieved. I honestly couldn’t remember when I last had made this pasta, so long was it since I had been starving hungry! It just shows what wanting-to-be-healthy can do to you sometimes to ruin your food options.
Pour the oil into a pan and add a little bit more just for good measure. Then use 1 clove of garlic per person … thinly sliced. If you like more garlic, do by all means add more. The garlic must cook in the oil at a very very very VERY low heat, and that can take quite some time (about 10 minutes even).
And, contrary to every other recipe for garlic cooking in olive oil (at least so far as Italian cuisine is concerned), the garlic must cook until it turns slightly brown. At that point switch the heat off, and remove the pan away from the source of heat too. I added a very small amount of chilli flakes … I would have added more had it not been for my daughter who has yet to master the delights of eating hot food.
What can I say? This is just so satisfying in an atavistic way almost. Me hungry … me want to eat … yes … Me happy because pasta gooooood. Mmmm. Yes indeed.