Author Notes: When I met the man who would later become my husband, one of the pleasures of my single life that I thought I'd miss was my favorite one-person, late-night, almost-empty-pantry meal -- spagetti with Asian chili-garlic sauce, olive oil and pecorino. It's certainly delicious, but it just seemed like a strange thing to serve another person, like offering them pasta doused with ketchup.
But inevitably, the time came when it was late, the pantry was empty, and we were hungry. And as soon as my husband tasted the concoction, it became one of his favorite meals too, a treat for nights when we can't face cooking or washing a pile of dishes.
It's basically a riff on the Roman dish cacio e pepe -- in which pasta is tossed vigorously with cheese, oil, butter and pepper, which emulsifies when mixed with a bit of the starchy pasta water into a deliciously creamy sauce. Instead of pepper, I use Huy Fong chili-garlic sauce -- the jar right next to sriracha on the supermarket shelf. It works with any kind of pasta, but we usually eat it with spagetti. Use the best olive oil you have, or substitute all or some of the oil with butter. If you don't have pecorino, it's also good with parmesan. —Indrani
cup good-quality olive oil
tablespoon chili-garlic sauce (or to taste)
cup finely grated pecorino cheese, plus more to add at table
- Boil a pot of salted water with just enough water to cover the pasta by an inch or so.
- Add the pasta and cook until al dente.
- Reserve a cup of the starchy pasta water, and then pour the pasta into a colander over a serving bowl (an easy way to warm the bowl). Empty the bowl and pour in the pasta.
- Mix the pasta with the olive oil, then add the chili-garlic sauce and the cheese. Toss vigorously, adding a few drops of the reserved pasta water at a time until the sauce looks a bit creamy and the pasta is well-coated. Taste it and add salt if necessary -- it may not be, depending on how salty the cheese is. Sprinkle on additional cheese at the table.