Linguine with Garlic and Oil

Makes 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

One of my all-time favorites, the quintessential late night Roman dish uses olive oil as a primary flavor, so use the best you have. Any shape of pasta will do here, though linguine is traditional. Be careful not to overcook the garlic. There are times when an oil-based sauce is not thin enough to coat your pasta. In this case, add more oil or a bit of pasta-cooking water.

Salt

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more as needed

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 or 2 small dried red chiles, or to taste, or hot red pepper flakes to taste (optional)

1 pound long, thin pasta, like linguine or spaghetti, or any other pasta

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves (optional)

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Put the oil, garlic, the chiles if you're using them, and a pinch of salt in a small skillet or saucepan over medium-low heat. Let the garlic sizzle a bit, shaking the pan occasionally, just until it turns golden, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat if the pasta isn't ready.

2. Cook the pasta until it is tender but not mushy. When it is done, drain it, reserving a bit of the cooking water. Reheat the garlic and oil mixture briefly if necessary. Dress the pasta with the sauce, adding a little more oil or some of the cooking water if it seems dry. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then toss with the parsley if you're using it.

Linguine with Garlic, Oil, and Anchovies.

In Step 1, add 4 to 6 anchovy fillets (with their oil, if any; rinsed and picked over if salted) to the oil along with the garlic; mash the anchovies until they break down and virtually dissolve into the oil. Linguine with Garlic, Oil, and Fresh Herbs. When the garlic is done, toss in a mixture of 1 cup or more fresh herbs, whatever you have on hand; try, for example, 1/4 cup minced parsley leaves; 1/4 cup minced basil or chervil leaves; 1 sprig tarragon, minced; several sprigs of dill, minced; a sprig or two of thyme, leaves stripped from the stem and minced; and 1 tablespoon or more of minced chives (this is merely a suggestion; substitute freely). The mixture will absorb all the oil, so, in Step 3, when you toss it with the pasta, be sure to add more oil or some of the pasta-cooking water. Garnish with more chopped herbs.

Linguine with Garlic, Oil, and Bread Crumbs.

Use a large skillet over medium heat and start by putting in only the oil. When hot, add 1/2 cup bread crumbs, preferably fresh, and cook, stirring frequently, until golden and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes; remove with a slotted spoon. Add a little more oil, turn the heat down to medium-low, and stir in the chiles if you're using them, the garlic, and a large pinch of salt. Proceed with the recipe, stirring in the crunchy bread crumbs as a garnish at the last moment.

Linguine with Garlic, Oil, and Chickpeas.

Good with cut pasta, like ziti, penne, or shells: While you're cooking the pasta, toss about 1 cup cooked chickpeas (drained canned are fine) into the cooked garlic-oil mixture and warm gently.

Linguine with Garlic, Oil, and Nuts.

Use walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, or pine nuts and add anchovies if you like (see the first variation): Chop about 1/2 cup nuts in a food processor or by hand. Use a large skillet over medium heat and start by putting in only the oil. When hot, add the nuts and cook, stirring frequently, until they start to toast and become fragrant, just a minute or two. Then turn the heat down to medium-low and stir in the chiles, garlic, and a large pinch of salt. Proceed with the recipe from Step 1.