Lately, there has been a lot of demand for pasta dishes around here. Not that I mind: Pasta dishes can be simple and yet utterly satisfying. Many do not take hours and hours of labor to result in something nice, either. Even better, you often have the required ingredients readily handy.
A popular and utterly easy dish to make is Alio e Olio – literally garlic and oil. There are many renditions of this recipe, some great, some lame. For years, I have struggled with perfecting my version – I have added lemon juice, pine nuts, whole chili peppers, shredded red pepper, cayenne, and so forth. I have combined these ingredients, blended them, and infused them. Some results were good, some were bad. None were great.
Finally, I came to something in my spice drawer that catapulted my alio e olio lightyears ahead: Aleppo Pepper. While Aleppo Pepper is a very well known spice in much of the rest of the world, Americans are generally unfamiliar with it. It's their loss, though, for Aleppo Pepper is simply divine!
Rather than overwhelm you with a punch of spice that numbs your taste buds, drowns out the flavors of all other ingredients, and makes you break out in sweat, Aleppo Pepper is gentle. It unfolds slowly and remains rather mild. It brings with it a distinct sweetness that transforms many a dish from ordinary to spectacular. What's more, it's somewhat granular in nature and thus, tends to dissolve just a little bit during the cooking process, allowing flavor to permeate the entire dish.
If you are now hoping to run over to the grocery store to purchase some, simply don't. They won't have any. They will not even have heard of it but will look at you as though you are nuts. Sure, you can try online sources – such an Penzey's – and they do have it. Alas, you'll have to wait to receive it.
Instead, head over to Williams-Sonoma! Yes, you read that right! There, you will find a nice little jar of Aleppo Pepper, nicely priced, and of great quality.
Below is my recipe - it is short and sweet, takes but 15 minutes to whip up, and is, naturally, mostly beige in color and thus, visuallypleasing to those difficult eaters who demand a beige recipe. Of course, it also tastes great!
½ lb. Spaghetti.
8 cloves of Garlic.
5 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
1 tsp. Aleppo Pepper.
2 Tbs. Italian Parsley, chopped.
Pecorino Romano, grated.
Let's get started:
Fill a large cook pot with salted water, bring to a boil
When the water has reached a rolling boil, add the Spaghetti, stir, and cook according to directions or to your liking.
While the pasta is cooking, peel the garlic and slice the cloves paper thin.
Add the olive oil to a large skillet.
About five minutes before the pasta is done, turn to stove to medium-low heat and let he oil get hot – not smoking hot, just warm enough so that the garlic can get fragrant without instantly browning or burning.
Add the garlic.
Add the Aleppo pepper.
Reduce heat to low and allow the garlic to become fragrant. It's okay if it turns a bit golden, but don't let it get too far or the garlic with have a gummy texture and, if browned even further, will turn bitter.
When the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the garlic and oil.
Add the chopped parsley and mix it all together.
Serve immediately and sprinkle with the grate Pecorino.