Pasta & Advice

I learned about this recipe while listening to Katie Couric’s audio book, “The Best Advice I Ever Got.” After Katie’s introduction, Mario Batali opens the courage and self-confidence section  with “Life is not a recipe.” He tells readers that “Recipes are just descriptions of one person’s take on one moment in time. They’re not rules. People think they are. They look as if they are. They say, “Do this, not this. Add this, not that.” But, really, recipes are just suggestions that got written down.”

That being said, Mr. Batali continues to share an actual recipe – spaghetti all’aglio e olio. I don’t know if it was his description of the recipe or the heavy amounts of olive oil that drew me in, but I made it and it was delicious.

Here’s what you’ll need:


  • 1 lb-1.5 lbs of spaghetti – regular, whole wheat, gluten-free, homemade (I adjust spaghetti amounts all the time based on sauce distribution)
  • 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil + more for drizzling
  • 2-5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon of red chili flakes (Batali uses a tablespoon – if you like things super hot, go for it!)
  • ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • ½ cup of pickled  peperoncini peppers, sliced
  • Fresh parmesan, grated

?Here’s what you’ll do:

1. Boil a big pot of salted water. Heavy salt – it should taste briny. Add spaghetti and cook according to directions.

2. In a large skillet, add olive oil, garlic slices, red pepper flakes, and a tablespoon of the salted pasta water (Mario taught me that this prevents the garlic from burning!). Sauté on low-medium heat until garlic softens.

3. Strain pasta; add noodles to skillet with ½ cup fresh parsley. Add some more drizzles of olive oil. Stir, cover, sauté on low for a few more minutes.

4. Place final product in the biggest bowl you can find and add copious amounts of parmesan.

5. Grab a glass of wine and enjoy…grab white (or milk) if it’s spicy!

?If you review Batali’s actual recipe for this dish, he uses different pickled peppers, breadcrumbs not parmesan, and more chili flakes than I can stomach. True to Mario’s advice, and taking a page from Katie’s book, I modified the ingredients to make this my own – similar to the way I do in my every day life. Very clever, Mario Batali.

Now, this moment and this meal are yours for the taking. Give it a whirl and let me know how it goes!