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Hunger cravings seem to strike at times other than midnight.
Especially for me. In my current rock-and-roll lifestyle, I tend to be ready-for-bed by 10 o’clock, fast asleep by the time the clock strikes twelve.
With the exception of those nights I’m out on the town listening to ear-pounding live music and drinking cheap cava until the wee hours, my need for quick hunger fixes will haunt me most often after a day of cooking for a client; a long day spent cooking; tasting and smelling everything but never stopping for a break to nourish myself.
We all have some kind of personal go-to meal that feeds an empty stomach and brings body and soul back together. And whether after a day of debauchery, hard work or world travel, I’m willing to bet that those foods contain lots of carbs, salt and spice.
An Italian-style midnight snack – la spaghettata di mezzanotte – completes my appetite for all of the above. I’ve enjoyed versions with anchovies, bread crumbs and chopped up fresh tomatoes, but the core of the plate has to be pasta – preferably spaghetti for the satisfying slurp factor; and lots of garlic, olive oil and chili.
Olio santo is hot chili oil from Calabria.
There are worse things to be addicted to, which I guess is a good thing because this stuff has found its way into my everyday life and I l-o-v-e it. A little drizzle on homemade popcorn, a garnish on toasted bread strewn with arugula..it works.
I recommend making your chili oil in advance so that you might experience this holy trinity of delicousness; chili, pecorino and pasta.
Midnight Spaghetti with Pecorino and Chili
For the hot chili oil
- 3 medium-hot fresh red chili peppers, such as Fresno; coarsely chopped
- 3 or 4 dried red chili peppers, such as chile de árbol; crumbled
- 1 cup (250 ml) olive oil
- ½ pound dried spaghetti or other pasta shape
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ¾ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- Chopped Italian parsley
- Hot chili oil
- Dried crushed red pepper
- Puree all the chilies and oil in a blender until smooth. Pour into a small saucepan and bring to a low boil and simmer 1 minute. Remove pan from the heat to cool and infuse the oil.
- Pour the mixture through a mesh strainer into a measuring cup. For clearer oil, avoid pressing down on the solids; if the mix starts to move slowly through the strainer, stir gently with a spoon and/or lift out some of the solids. Line the strainer with a piece of cheesecloth and pour the oil through one more time.
- Transfer the oil to an airtight jar or bottle; store in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
To make the pasta
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a small handful of salt. Add the spaghetti or pasta of your choice.
- Meanwhile, heat the onion, garlic and extra-virgin olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat until it starts to sizzle; scoop out ½ cup of the boiling pasta water and add to the pan. Cover, lower heat and cook 5 minutes or until the onion and garlic are very tender.
- If there’s any water left in the pan, let it bubble away in the uncovered pan until reduced to a tablespoon or so.
- Once the pasta is just about done, drain and reserve about ½ cup of the cooking water in a small bowl.
- Add the drained pasta to the sauté pan over low heat, along with ½ cup of the cheese; stir enough water to blend with the cheese to coat the pasta.
- Serve in bowls drizzled with some parsley, hot chili oil, crushed red pepper and additional cheese to taste.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
Nutrition facts are calculated by third-party software. If you have specific dietary needs, please refer to your favorite calculator.