The late-night spaghetti monster will be tamed with this flavor-packed pasta that comes together quickly from pantry ingredients. The key here is making the most of the garlic.
We toasted a whopping 2 tablespoons of minced garlic in extra-virgin olive oil over low heat just until it cooked to a sweet and buttery pale golden brown. (Be careful not to let it go any darker or it will be harsh.)
Also, we cooked the spaghetti in just 2 quarts of salted water to ensure that the cooking water ended up loaded with starch; adding some of that starchy water back to the finished spaghetti gave our simple pantry sauce lots of body and texture.
Finally, adding a little minced raw garlic right at the end of the cooking time created a garlicky duality between the buttery sweetness of the toasted garlic and the fire of the raw garlic.
This is endlessly adaptable, depending on what you have in your pantry. (No Parmesan? Toast up some bread crumbs instead. No basil? Try parsley, or leave it out. If you’re really hungry, add a can of tuna at the end. And don’t forget about the variations that follow.)
GARLICKY SPAGHETTI WITH LEMON AND PINE NUTS
Start to finish: 40 minutes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound spaghetti
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest plus 2 tablespoons juice
1 cup chopped fresh basil
1 ounce Parmesan, grated (1/2 cup), plus extra for serving
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
Combine oil and 2 tablespoons garlic in 8 inch nonstick skillet. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic is pale golden brown, 9 to 12 minutes. Off heat, stir in pepper flakes; set aside.
Bring 2 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add pasta and 2 teaspoons salt and cook, stirring frequently, until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to pot. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon garlic, lemon zest and juice, reserved garlic-oil mixture, and reserved cooking water to pasta in pot. Stir until pasta is well coated with oil and no water remains in bottom of pot. Add basil, Parmesan, and pine nuts and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, passing extra Parmesan separately.
Garlicky Spaghetti with Capers and Currants: Omit lemon zest, basil, and pine nuts. Reduce lemon juice to 1 tablespoon. Stir 3 tablespoons capers, rinsed and minced; 3 tablespoons currants, minced; and 2 anchovy fillets, rinsed, patted dry, and minced, into pasta with lemon juice.
Garlicky Spaghetti with Green Olives and Almonds: Omit lemon zest and reduce lemon juice to 1 tablespoon. Stir 1 cup green olives, chopped fine, into pasta with lemon juice. Substitute Pecorino Romano for Parmesan and toasted sliced almonds for pine nuts.
Garlicky Spaghetti with Clams: Omit lemon zest and pine nuts. Reduce lemon juice to 2 teaspoons. Stir 2 (6 1/2 ounce) cans whole clams, drained and chopped, and 4 anchovy fillets, rinsed, patted dry, and minced, into pasta with lemon juice. Increase Parmesan to 3/4 cup and substitute 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley for basil.