This recipe is as simple as it gets, and quick to boot. There are a few keys to making it stand out: use the best ingredients you can find, from the canned tomatoes to the olive oil. And secondly, don’t be afraid to really stir those noodles as you alternate between adding tomato sauce and cooking water. It’ll make the sauce cling to the noodles and develop a velvety texture.
Basic Spaghetti Arrabbiata
Makes 6 first course servings or 4 main course servings
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 5 garlic cloves
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon Calabrian chili flakes
- 1 28-ounce can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil.
Meanwhile, on a cutting board, cover the garlic cloves with about 1 teaspoon of salt, and use the back of a chef’s knife to crush the cloves into a fine paste. Place a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the garlic and chili flakes and toast for about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer.
When the water is boiling, add the spaghetti and cook until al dente (usually about 10 minutes). Reserve about 2 cups of the cooking water, then drain the spaghetti and transfer to a large bowl. Add the butter, ¼ cup of the cooking water and ¼ cup of the tomato sauce and stir quickly and continuously until the water and tomatoes come together into a sauce. Continue to add cooking water and additional tomato sauce, stirring constantly, until you’ve achieved the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper, divide between bowls and serve with grated Parmigiano cheese.
For a take on “fra diavolo,” swap out Calabrian chili flakes for pequin chili flakes and add 1 pound of poached crab, shrimp or lobster meat to the bowl with the cooked noodles. The bright acidity of the pequin chilies will complement the seafood’s richness.
For a take on “alla nonna,” swap out Calabrian chili flakes for cascabel or chipotle chili flakes, and add 1 cup each of diced roasted eggplant and diced fresh mozzarella to the bowl with the cooked noodles. Eggplant is an amazing bedfellow with smoky flavors and the chili will bring nuance to the dish.