[Recipe] The perfect weeknight pasta

Spaghettini Aglio Olio with Calabrese Peperoncino

Calabrese Chili PeppersThis traditional Italian pasta from Calabria in southern Italy is a favourite of Natalie (28), a law graduate, and Dale (30), research analyst in the finance industry. The couple, who live in Johannesburg and both have Italian heritage (Natalie in Padua, Veneto; Dale near Caserta, Campagnia) share a love for Italian cuisine.

“One day we felt like eating this traditional dish, so we looked up some online versions of the recipe. Calabria is famous for its cuisine and love of spice. The delicious, fruity chilies that are grown in the area are the special ingredient in this simple pasta dish. Some aglio olio recipes suggest the use of Parmesan cheese in the dish; however, I prefer the sharp, salty, wild taste of Pecorino cheese. And as this sauce is essentially a flavoured oil, I like to use spaghettini rather than spaghetti because the delicate pasta allows the flavour of the oil more mouth space.”

“It just has such a unique balance of flavours, while being comforting at the same time. It’s one of those recipes you turn to when you don’t want too much fuss in the kitchen but need something fulfilling.” And they enjoy it often, too… “Whenever I look in the fridge and see that we have flat-leaf parsley, I ask Dale to make this dish!”

Over the years the couple has tweaked the recipe to their tastes and come up with this – their favourite – version…

Serves 4


  • Packet spaghettini pasta
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 1/3 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup good white wine
  • 1 to 2 Calabrese Chilies (to taste), split long-ways in half, de-stemmed and seeds removed
  • Handful of flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, chopped
  • Grated Pecorino Romano cheese to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  • Cook the spaghettini as per the instructions on the packet.
  • In the meantime pour the olive oil into a pan on medium heat.
  • Place the garlic cloves in the sizzling oil.
  • Keep a watch on the cloves; they must not burn.
  • Place the chilies in the oil with the garlic.
  • Once the garlic cloves are just beginning to brown, remove the pan from the heat.
  • Remove the chilies and cloves with a heat-proof spoon.
  • Carefully pour the white wine into the pan (watch out for splashes!) and let it reduce.
  • Once your spaghettini is drained, put it back in the pot and pour the flavoured oil over the pasta.
  • Split the portions into your serving bowls and sprinkle generously with parsley, pecorino and pepper.

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