Really Spicy Spaghetti
Before the actual post, a couple of very quick points on the basics that many of you know – however this is my list of “best practice.” Share yours in our comments – I’d love to know them! For a long time I did not cook pasta with enough salt and I cooked it too long. I find a lot of my kitchen-experienced friends make the same error. Water should taste salty, like the ocean. If using boxed pasta, follow the directions for timing (each one is actually different – i.e. whole wheat pasta often takes 4 minutes while your typical takes 8 for al dente). Do not rinse – the starch helps the pasta stick to the noodle. Add a little pasta water at the last minute to your sauce to round it out. I occaisionally drizzle a touch of olive oil into the strainer and mix into the noodles – you will know the difference.
I love flavor with my heat and heat with my flavor. This small recipe allows for both – and through years of adding things to make a hot spaghetti dish, I assure that this is a way to pack maximum heat without transforming your dish into vinegar.
The secret of a spicy plate of pasta is in the noodles – not the sauce. Make your sauce as you will, add a bit of heat as you wish but don’t overdo it – half a bottle of Tabasco can be an eclectic addition but will likely turn your plate into a bowl of sour. Useful for a hangover, winning a battle of testosterone or to test kids on the TV show HURL (warning – that link is very tasteless though safe for family viewing).
Cook your noodles al dente and drain. You may wish to cook a little less than you wish to eat them as you’ll see to come. Do not rinse (if you wish to make the sauce stick more readily to your noodles, add a little pasta water to your sauce before draining).
Warm a frying pan up to a moderate heat. Once warmed through, toast dry spices of your choice. Hot pepper flakes, chipotle, pepper, cayenne or the rest. You do not have to go crazy – those who like a mild twang simply add less than the fire eaters amongst us. You can add other seasoning such as dried oregano, basil, Herbes des Provence. As you toast them, you will smell the flavors – flavors and oils will come alive.
I am the curious sort and often dip my nose down to get a big waft of the smells. Be careful – inhaling this heat is no fun.
Add oil to the pan, heat the oil. Be patient – part of this exercise is to infuse the oil itself. If you like the garlic, you can add the fresh stuff with the oil. If you want a really rich dish, add butter to the oil. Bring the oil concoction up to heat before adding the pasta. Toss and heat through – the object is to share the flavors and infuse the oil through the noodles in the plate.
An added bonus is that your noodles are ready to fry the next day with a little bit of hot oil in a pan – awesome breakfast, especially if a little foggy from the night before!
The same technique will work for any dried herbs (especially in the winter when fresh are scarce) . Sometimes I add my sauce to the pan, others I don’t – you can take it from here.