(serves 2 full portions)
Spaghetti Aglio e Olio, which is spaghetti with garlic and oil, is purportedly the most common pasta dish in Italy. That’s easy to understand why; it’s fast and easy to cook. Basic Spaghetti Aglio e Olio tastes good enough, but with some smoked salmon flakes added into the fray, it tastes even better. If you are into cream-less and cheese-less pasta, this is the recipe for you. And if you like it vegetarian too, this is possible (see notes).
- Garlic (8 cloves = 0.5 bulb)
- Olive Oil (1/3 cup)
- Smoked Salmon (100g)
- Spaghetti (200g)
- Parsley (4T, chopped)
- A few hours or the night before, slice your garlic into thin 1 mm pieces. Soak the slices in 1/3 cup of olive oil. This is secret No.1, infusing the oil with garlic ahead of time.
- Boil a pot of water for the pasta, with 1t of salt and a dash of olive oil.
- If you are using fresh parsley (Italian is best) chop it into fine bits at this stage.
- Roll up 100g of smoked salmon and slice the roll once lengthwise to halve the roll, then breadthwise into thin slivers. Soak the salmon in 1/3 cup of water laced with 1T cognac. This is secret No.2, changing the water into brine using the smoked salmon.
- Put 200g of spaghetti into the pot of boiling water.
- In a pan, heat the garlic and oil on low heat. While the oil is heating up, take the time to arrange the garlic pieces so they don’t stack. When the thinner pieces start to brown, perhaps after 3 minutes, turn the heat off. The garlic will continue to get darker for a while and you don’t want it to get burnt.
- When the pasta is half cooked (about 4 minutes, see how the timing matches with the garlic?), strain it and add it to the pan. With heat back on at medium, add the salmon brine, but without the salmon. Sprinkle in 3T of chopped parsley and some black pepper. Toss in the pan till the spaghetti is al dente and the water has dried up.
- Turn off the fire and immediately add the smoked salmon. Toss again to lightly cook the salmon and after checking for taste (taste pasta together with salmom, smoked salmon is salty), sprinkle on the right amount of salt to bring the dish to life.
- Plate and garnish with 1T more of chopped parsley.
- If you want to make plain Spaghetti Aglio e Olio, i.e. without the salmon, use 1/3 cup of water from the pasta pot instead. You’ll also need to add more salt at the end to compensate.
- Some people like to add a light sprinkle of chilli flakes. This is permissible. If you are doing so, remember to reduce the amount of black pepper accordingly.
- Do not use parmigiano or another other cheese. This is an American bastardization and cheese is not allowed – not unless you call the result Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Cheese.
- I usually use 80g of pasta per person but this is a relatively light dish and 100g is more appropriate for a main course.
- Reduce the olive oil to 1/4 cup if you want a lighter pasta.