This super simple pasta packs big, spicy punch and a lemony finish for clean, fresh, authentic Italian flavors with a sharp Pecorino finish.
People know a few things about me when it comes to summer: I summer hard, I don’t leave my zip code except on the rare occasion, and I cook less (’cause #SummerHard). I would say I’m looking forward to getting into the school year swing of things, except that’s shaping up to be equally, if not more crazy in terms of schedules. Soccer, cheer, and swim will all be in session for the months of September and October and that makes me a little anxious just to type out. Dinners will need to be FAST! And they will need to be kid-friendly, which unfortunately, this meal is not (unless your kids like things HOT, in which case…lucky you!). I’m on the prowl for meals this quick, however. Ready in 20-25 minutes is exactly what I’m looking for.
ROLL CALL FOR THIS RECIPE
- Those Who Like it Hot: There’s no denying it – Calabrian peppers are spicy and this pasta meal is spicy, too! Tamed by a bit of lemon zest and white wine, the Calabrian chilis are the star of the show.
- Pasta People: I don’t trust people who don’t LOVE pasta. I’m not a pasta connoisseur, per se, but it does drive me bonkers when restaurants serve over-cooked pasta. You must cook pasta to perfection — and that means pasta al dente — and always reserve a cup of the pasta water. You never know when a bit of that starchy pasta water will be needed as the perfect addition to your pasta recipe.
- Date Night In: With this meal being most likely enjoyed by adults and most of a bottle of wine to finish, this may become your favorite pasta for a romantic, yet simple night in! Cooking together, or with good company, is often most enjoyable when kept simple!
KEY INGREDIENTS AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Pasta: A short twisted pasta that originated in Sicily is perfect to ensure sauce clings to the noodles and sauce is captures into the twist and takes on the flavor of the pasta sauces it is served with. You can use any short-length type of pasta you prefer, however. I am a believer in high quality pasta to get that restaurant-quality pasta meal.
- Olive Oil: The south of Italy is where most olive oil originates and therefore extra virgin olive oil seems most fitting for this recipe both from a taste perspective as well as on premise. However, avocado or vegetable oil can work in a pinch.
- Garlic Cloves: Fresh is best and feel free to add more or less to your liking! The jarred garlic is just fine here but I wouldn’t recommend garlic powder as a substitute.
- White Wine: When it comes to a dry white wine, I default to Sauvignon Blanc out of personal preference, however Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay are also excellent choices. You may also omit the wine and substitute in a bit of additional pasta water or additional fresh lemon juice.
- Lemon: The fresh lemon juice and zest adds great depth and calms the peppers to a medium heat. While you can certainly substitute in about 1/4 cup lemon juice from concentrate, I strongly recommend trying to get a fresh lemon that has been zested to perfection!
- Calabrian Chili Peppers: Native to southern Italy, these fire engine red peppers are about 3 times spicier than jalapenos. They are smoky, sweet, and to some, a bit fruity. They are commonly used in traditional Italian cuisine to add heat to pizzas and pasta and that’s precisely what the Calabrian peppers to in this spicy Calabrian chili pasta! I ordered mine off of Amazon, however you can likely find them in Whole Foods or large grocery stores in more urban areas. Some recipes call for pureeing the chiles into a paste (or purchasing Calabrian chili paste), however I prefer to purchase crushed Calabrian chili peppers (in oil) so that small pieces remain and I find that to blunt some of the spice while providing the depth of flavor from the chili peppers.
- Salt: A bit of salt (iodized, kosher salt, any will do) enhances the flavors of the chilis and ties together the flavors. There is no other ingredient, other than the cheese to finish, that offers sodium, so I do recommend adding as recommended. A salt substitute or using slightly more or less to meet your taste preference and health goals is just fine.
- Pecorino: This hard, aged sheep’s milk cheese is a sharp, salty finish to this dish. Parmesan cheese can absolutely be subbed in, however!
- This meal is rich in unsaturated fat, unlike butter and cream-based pasta dishes.
- Additional protein and vegetable are easily added to this meal. Simple pastas are a great main because you can add or subtract easily to create the meal you want with both taste and nutrition in mind!
- This pasta is moderately low in sodium (less than 550 milligrams for the meal)
What’s the best way to know if your pasta is cooked al dente?
Taste is the best way to know your pasta is cooked to perfection. You want the noodles to be firm when bitten but not crunchy or chalky, particularly in the middle (the noodles cook at the center last). Check the package instructions for the recommended cook time and set a timer so time doesn’t get away from you – you can’t uncook the pasta! Start tasting when 1 minute remains on the set cook time. Continue tasting every minute until cooked until al dente.
I made this and it’s TOO spicy. Any tips?
Add some half and half or heavy cream in lieu of pasta water, or in addition to pasta water. You can also add 1-2 teaspoons of sugar or a bit of your favorite marinara, tomato sauce, canned tomatoes (highly recommend San Marzano), or tomato paste. This dish would be delicious as a Calabrian chili creamy sauce. A rich tomato flavour is sure to tame the spicy chili!
VARIATIONS, STORAGE, and TIPS
- If you prefer additional protein, a pound of large shrimp would go great as an accompaniment to this meal. I would add 1 tablespoon of olive oil or butter to a large skillet along with a teaspoon of the jarred Calabrian chilies over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the shrimp and cook for 3-5 minutes or until pink and cooked through, serving atop the pasta.
- Fresh basil to top would be a beautiful addition and a piece of warm, crusty bread to serve with pasta dishes is always perfect and allows you to clean your plate of all the delicious flavor. Serve with your favorite steamed or roasted vegetable – broccoli, asparagus, green beans, or cauliflower would be great.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. To rewarm, add a little water to the pasta (just a few drops) and heat on high for 2-3 minutes.
- 1 lb Cassarecce shaped pasta
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 3 Tbsp jarred Calabrian chili peppers, crushed or paste
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup (4 oz) finely shredded Pecorino
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat.
- Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving about 1 cup of pasta water.
- In a large skillet (or the pot from the pasta), heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
- Add the lemon zest, chili peppers, and salt; cool for 1 minute, stirring often. Add the wine and cook for 1 minute, stirring often.
- Add the cooked pasta and 1/4 cup reserved pasta water; toss to coat and top with lemon juice. Toss once more.
- Add additional pasta water, if needed. Serve hot and topped with shredded Pecorino.
Recipe slightly adapted from What's Gaby Cooking?
Nutrition Information:Yield: 7 Serving Size: 1/7 recipe
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 436Total Fat: 20.7gCholesterol: 14mgSodium: 548mgCarbohydrates: 50.7gFiber: 2.3gSugar: 2.6gProtein: 12.1g
I adore pasta. Here’s some other favorites:
- One Pot Kielbasa Pasta
- Instant Pot Buffalo Chicken Pasta
- Seared Scallop Pesto Pasta with Slow Roasted Tomatoes
- Skillet BBQ Chicken Pasta
- Homemade Roasted Marinara Sauce
- Sweet Pepper Pasta with Sausage
- 20-Minute Seafood Pasta
- Instant Pot Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
- Mac and Cheese with Ham and Peas