Pasta aglio e olio; the simplest & most delicious chef’s pasta…

Have you ever noticed how gorgeous movie food looks? How glossy the sauces are, how plump the sausages, how vibrant the salads, how drippy the burgers, how beautiful the patisserie, basically how much it makes you want to eat despite the fact you’re not even vaguely hungry? Ok, well, I’m not sure I ever have that feeling because OH MY GOD, I’M ALWAYS HUNGRY…

…uh, apologies. Not sure where that came from but it’s probably got something to do with the fact that a) I am genuinely always snuffling around for the next thing to eat and b) I had the most amazing, wickedly good & suspiciously simple pasta dish recently and it’s this that we’re going to chat about today.

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Hands up who’s seen the film ‘Chef’? Oh good, that’s most of you…except you back there. Yeah, you in the red sweater…you’ve not seen ‘Chef’? Like, seriously not seen it? Ok well the minute you’ve finished reading this article – woah, woah, woah, WHEN you’ve finished it I said, not now, sit back down please – as I was saying, the minute you finish reading this article, go watch it, inhale it, devour it then come back here and we’ll get cooking.

It’s such a fantastic film, I can’t even tell you how much I adore it and the food they cook in it. Every time I watch it, I’m reminded not only of how much I love ingredients and dishes and menus and prepping and cooking but also of how really great food brings people together in ways nothing else can.

Cooking is an act of love, of support and of generosity and of nourishment. I want to feed you, your stomach and your heart, I want to welcome you to my table, to make you feel good and I want to see in your eyes that exact moment when you taste something and wonder how or why you’ve never had it before but you know you want it, you want a lot of it and you want it now and forever more.

If you want to make something for someone that makes them feel that way, this is the recipe to do it with – Pasta Aglio e Olio or ‘chef’s pasta’ as it’s known in our house, simply translated as ‘pasta with garlic and oil’. Created especially for the film by superstar chef and food-truck founder Roy Choi, it’s temptation on a plate. Seriously, if you’ve ever had a Korean taco that changed your life, you should probably send a quiet thank-you to the man whose modern way of thinking about food is totally influencing what we eat and how.

(For more information about the recipe or the other dishes from the film, head to chefthemovie.com)

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INGREDIENTS (for 2 people)

  • 225 grams of spaghetti (fresh or dried is fine, just follow cooking times on packet; I like to use wholewheat)
  • 120 ml of olive oil
  • 4 decent sized garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 110 grams flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 110 grams fresh Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • rock salt & fresh black pepper

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METHOD

  • Put a large pan of salted water on to boil then add the spaghetti and cook according to the instructions; dried pasta will usually take around 10-12 minutes to leave it a little al dente (‘with bite’) and not soggy.
  • Heat your olive oil in another pan over a low to medium heat; you don’t want your oil too hot or your garlic will burn and be inedible and you will be very sad and hungry.
  • Add all of your sliced garlic and stir frequently until it turns golden brown.
  • Add your red pepper flakes and a generous pinch of rock salt and fresh black pepper; turn the heat down very low now while you finish your pasta.
  • Drain your spaghetti but do not rinse; you want the remnants of pasta water to ‘grab hold’ of the oil when you combine the two.
  • Add your drained spaghetti directly to the pan with the garlic & red pepper oil and gently mix everything together until each strand is coated with oil.
  • Remove the pan from the heat, add your parsley and most of your Parmesan and toss everything together well.
  • Check your seasoning and add more salt & pepper if necessary.
  • Squeeze your lemon over everything to taste
  • Serve with the last of the Parmesan sprinkled over the top.

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I like to serve this with fresh crusty bread to mop up all of that gorgeous garlicky oil but you feel free to go ahead and lick the plate clean if needs be, you’ll find no judgement from me. A goldfish bowl sized glass of red wine also goes down a treat alongside it.

This is one of those dishes that looks as though it takes a hell of a lot more time & effort than it actually does. The reality is it’s simple and the beauty is you’ll get to sincerely enjoy & appreciate a few quality ingredients in one bowl.

The garlic is crazy sweet and pungent, the red pepper flakes add the tiniest dab of heat and the lemon cuts through the richness of the oil. All of that spooned onto twirls of soft pasta…swooning right now. Trust me when I say this is the dish to make when you wanna impress but doubt your own skills…it’s a glorious golden swirl of Italy guaranteed to seduce all who come before it.

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Pasta & Prosecco at Padella makes a perfect date night in London…

A recent article comparing life in London to that elsewhere in the country made a point of marvelling at the seeming willingness of its inhabitants to queue like a conga line of hungry lemmings at new restaurants and I was reminded of this as I stood, lemming-ing it up with the best of them, outside Padella last night.

Getting there at 6.15pm on a Thursday night when the air was flush with the warmth of spring and the mood of fellow work escapees was high meant there was a good chance the queue would be long and the wait snoozy; fifteen minutes later however and we were in, welcomed by friendly staff who appear to have been plucked straight from the known-only-to-locals, backstreet-cobbled-alleyway, restaurant gems of Milan and deposited in the balmy shadow of Southwark cathedral.

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Billed as the result of a decade long love affair with Italy’s most recognised & adored dish, Padella is descended from the glorious lineage of Trullo, an Italian institution in Highbury where it’s totally reasonable to envy the people lucky enough to call it their local. Whereas Trullo offers dishes from the oven & the charcoal blistered grill alongside other plates however, Padella is about one thing – soft, silky, slippery, saucey pasta. Read More

Pearl barley risotto with beetroot, goat’s cheese & walnuts…

 

There is something ridiculously comforting about risotto. Like snuggling under a softly plump duvet on the sofa while rain spatters the window panes outside or coming home and peeling off your work clothes before climbing with utter gratitude into your sweats and slippers, the concept, creation & consumption of this dish is one of the most soothing, reassuring & satisfying things you can do in the comfort of your own kitchen.

Granted it’s not the fastest dinner you can throw on the table and you do need to devote more time to it than you might do to say, cheesey spaghetti hoops on toast – one of the greatest meals of all time in case you were wondering – but the end results are so worth it.

This particular version of the dish whose life began in northern Italy several hundred years ago does stray a little of the well-trodden path of classic cookery but I hope the forgiveness of the Italians might be bestowed upon me as they recognise a twist on tradition as nothing more than the truest form of flattery and appreciation.  Read More