Growing up, we loved visiting Nana’s house, where a full Italian-American feast was sure to happen every holiday. From her famous homemade meatballs to the perfect al dente pasta dishes, our grandmother is most certainly our family’s home chef. The recipe we’re sharing today, her Angel Hair Pasta Aglio e Olio, is no exception. This is a simple, flavorful and classic pasta dish for Christmas Eve or any special family gathering.
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This traditional Italian-American recipe complements a larger feast: The Feast of the Seven Fishes. The Feast is an Italian-American celebration on Christmas Eve with dishes of fish and other seafood. Typical “fishes” include baccalà (salt cod), frutti di mare (shellfish), capitone (eel), calamari (squid), scungilli (conch meat) and vongole (clams). Often, we serve these fish dishes over Aglio e Olio to create a warm, comforting meal perfect for sharing with loved ones.
Most authentic Italian-American pasta dishes are served “al dente,” which translates to “to the tooth” in English. What in the world does this mean?! It simply means that the pasta is cooked to a texture that isn’t soft and limp, but rather has a “bite” and firmness to it instead. To achieve this firmness with angel hair pasta, avoid straying too far from your pasta because you only have to boil for 4 minutes, uncovered and stirring occasionally.
While Nana might prefer her pasta al dente, there’s no right or wrong with this dish! Cook the angel hair pasta a few minutes longer for a softer texture, but remember that this type of pasta is very thin and doesn’t need to be cooked for very long. Refer to your pasta’s package directions for various cooking times and textures.
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When serving loved ones, we always like to choose serveware that accentuates the season in a subtle way. For the holiday season, we love muted hues of green and a pop of gold for a bit of elegance. Consider texture, as well, with distressed or hammered finishes offer visual interest on your tablescape design.
Begin by bringing 4 – 6 quarts of water to a rolling boil and add salt to taste. Add angel hair pasta to boiling water and stir gently. Return the water to a boil. For authentic “al dente” pasta, boil uncovered, stirring occasionally for 4 minutes. (For a different firmness, review pasta package directions.) Remove pan from heat and drain pasta well.
Next, it’s time to prepare the olive oil mixture. Combine garlic, olive oil and salt in a cold skillet. Sauté ingredients over low heat and stir until garlic is golden brown. Add pepper and parsley.
Optional: for a soupier version, mix bouillon cube and water together. Allow oil mixture to cool a bit then slowly combine with the bouillon mixture.
Toss olive oil mixture and pasta all together until well combined.
Serve warm. Enjoy!