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Easy Italian Dishes; Spaghetti with Chili Peppers Garlic and Pecorino

Updated on January 18, 2016
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Penelope has three grandchildren, two girls and one boy- so far. They have beautiful names! She writes stories and she tells them stories.

Ingredients for Simple Calabrese Spaghetti Recipe

Ingredients for Spaghetti recipe from Calabria
Ingredients for Spaghetti recipe from Calabria | Source

Spaghetti with Chili Peppers Garlic and Pecorino

4.6 stars from 5 ratings of Spaghetti withh Chili PeppersGarlic and Pecorino

Quick Simple Dinners - From Calabria

The principal secret to this simple Calabrese spaghetti dish is that the spaghetti is drained five minutes before the end of its cook time, then as the video demonstrates, it's mixed in a wide pan in which extra virgin olive oil is frying cloves of garlic and slices of fresh red chili pepper - until the spaghetti is cooked aldente - at which time the freshly grated Calabrian sheep's cheese is added. The amalgamated flavors make for a dense pasta sauce where each ingredient competes and immediately relinquishes its power to the other in intense, creamy harmony.

The other secrets are these:

  • The spaghetti should be a big spaghetti size, at least number 5
  • The chili peppers are best if they are fresh (not dried)
  • The garlic is best fresh
  • The Pecorino cheese is best grated from a fresh piece of cheese
  • The olive oil has to be extra virgin olive oil
  • It's got to be eaten straight away while piping hot from the pan

If your garlic isn't fresh, that's fine too, but best to take the little shoot out in the middle. If your chili peppers are dried, you'll need less chili. If your Pecorino cheese is supermarket bought that is fine too, as long as the cheese is still fresh smelling. (Check the sell-by date and best not use it if its been opened for days).

This is a humble, simple meal so there's no need to make too much fuss about the ingredients.

This recipe comes from Calabria, today, from Nino Papasergio's Bed and Breakfast guest house restaurant Scin√° 015 where the foods are traditional and based entirely on local fresh ingredients which are still cooked the way they have been cooked for hundreds of years.

Did you know?

Calabria is a relatively poor region in South Italy whose hillsides of roaming sheep produce the most tasty Pecorino ('cheese of sheep') and Caciocavallo cheese.

Pan of Spaghetti

Spaghetti cooking in the pan
Spaghetti cooking in the pan | Source

Did you know?

The word for chili pepper in Italy is peperoncino which is pronounced like this:

pepper on cheeno

Cook Time from Start to Finish

Prep time: 3 min
Cook time: 20 min
Ready in: 23 min
Yields: 4-5 people a main course portion


  • 17.63 ounces (500 grams) spaghetti
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2 whole chili, fresh
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • half cup (to taste, so more if you like) pecorino, fresh and grated
  • 2/3 heaped teaspoons rock salt, (for spaghetti water)

Chili and Garlic Cooking in Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Chili and garlic frying in the pan of extra virgin olive oil
Chili and garlic frying in the pan of extra virgin olive oil | Source

Pots and Pans for Making Spaghetti

Cuisinart 722-36H Chef's Classic 14-Inch Helper Handle Skillet, Stainless Steel
Cuisinart 722-36H Chef's Classic 14-Inch Helper Handle Skillet, Stainless Steel
A chef's classic stainless steel open skillet for safe and comfortable handling


  1. Put the pasta water onto boil. Salt it. Cover to make it boil faster!
  2. Peel and cut the garlic into two.
  3. Slice the fresh chili peppers.
  4. Grate the cheese.
  5. When the water boils, add the packet of spaghetti. (Stir to separate the strands).
  6. TIMING: Read how many minutes the spaghetti takes to cook (this will be from when it starts to boil).
  7. IMPORTANT. Make a note to drain the spaghetti 2/3rds in to cooking time. (So for example, if the spaghetti takes 8 minutes, you'll be draining it at about 5 mins from boiling. If the spaghetti takes 12 minutes, you'll be draining at about 8 mins).
  8. In a separate pan, heat the extra virgin olive oil.
  9. Add the garlic and the chili peppers and fry a few minutes on a medium heat - it's important you don't brown the garlic! (Keep the garlic white.)
  10. When the spaghetti is 2/3 cooked - and just before straining, take out abut 1 pint of the pasta water and hold to one side.
  11. Strain the spaghetti.
  12. Add it to the pan with the frying garlic and chili peppers and begin mixing and stirring all together.
  13. Add approximately one cup of the pasta water you kept to one side and stir more.
  14. Alternately add a little of the Pecorino (see the video) and gradually add more water - continuing to mix and stir the pasta. Repeat a few times.
  15. When the spaghetti is cooked aldente, stop adding water.
  16. Turn off the heat and add a little more of the Pecorino cheese and amalgamate together - as the video demonstrates.
  17. Serve and eat straight away while it is still hot from the pan.

A Tavola!

Served at table.  We had ours over Christmas holidays. after all the rich foods we wanted something simple - and Italian.
Served at table. We had ours over Christmas holidays. after all the rich foods we wanted something simple - and Italian. | Source

Spaghetti with Garlic Chili Peppers and Pecorino Cheese

Plate of spaghetti with chili peppers, garlic and Pecorino cheese
Plate of spaghetti with chili peppers, garlic and Pecorino cheese | Source

Did you know?

The Italian word mantecare or matecato means 'to mix and stir and amalgamate' as the video shows.

When you make this easy Italian dish you need to manticare well! It is the secret of this recipe.

Pasta Bowls

Reco White Individual Pasta, Set of 4
Reco White Individual Pasta, Set of 4
Classic, white and simple pasta bowls

How Italians Make Spaghetti Recipes

Making a plate of pasta in Italy is not just about plonking a sauce over some pasta.

The sauce and the pasta are made to go with each other, to be mixed and combined (mantecato) until the pasta is well coated with the sauce in a way which compliments the type of pasta (noodle, short pasta, mini pasta shapes) and the type of sauce which is best for it. Spaghetti is never overcooked.

This dish is probably going to be very simple the second time you try it out; once you've experienced mixing (mantecare) semi-cooked spaghetti with the ingredients of this tasty, creamy, spicy, cheesy sauce until both the spaghetti and the sauce are properly married together in pasta harmony! That doesn't mean it won't be amazing the first time though.

Here are some helpful suggestions for confidence for when you try this recipe for this easy Italian dish of spaghetti with chili peppers garlic and Pecorinio - that very first time:

  • Add the water you held back very gradually to the mixing spaghetti (with chilli and garlic in the pan).
  • Keep the heat under the pan with the garlic, chili peppers and extra virgin olive oil on medium
  • In order not to have gummy pasta in the pan, don't overdo mixing in the cheese before you turn the heat off. You can add it at the last moment.
  • You'll be mixing and amalgamating (mantecare) until the time is up on the spaghetti packet, so get ready to be mixing for those few minutes and don't stop till the minutes are up and the spaghetti is cooked aldente.

Buon appetito!

© 2012 Penelope Hart


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