You’re tired. It’s been a long day. You hate your job and your life. And you’re very, very hungry. You get home and open up the fridge door. And the refrigerator laughs. It laughs as if to say, “What did you expect? Something to eat?” Because the fridge is empty. Sure there’s a jar of olives – or are they pickles? And something that used to be lettuce back in the ‘50’s. But there’s nothing you can eat without risk of food poisoning.


So you can 1) give up and go to bed, 2) go out and go shopping (are you kidding?) or, 3) get creative. Let’s go for option 3. Scrounge around – and I mean properly scrounge around – and you’ll probably find something. We’re talking about what cookbooks call ‘store cupboard staples’. These are the dry goods you should – and I emphasize should – have on hand. Okay, you’re no Martha Stewart but you do keep something in those cabinets, don’t you?


Here’s a crisis (because that’s what this is) meal that you can probably whip up. All you need is pasta (spaghetti please), red chile flakes, garlic, and olive oil. And running water. And electricity or gas. You get the idea. The dish is Aglio e Olio – or Aio e Oio  if you’re in Rome. It’s a classic example that the less you fuss about with food the better it tastes.


A couple of suggestions…sauté the garlic in a large sauté pan. Don’t drain the pasta but instead scoop it out and place in the pan with the garlic/olive oil/chile mixture. The small amount of water that clings to the pasta will make the dish taste better and richer. Add fresh parsley – if you’ve got it– and parmesan if you want (not traditional but tasty nonetheless). While you’re eating it, make out a grocery list. No more laughing refrigerators, promise?

Aglio e Olio

2 servings or 1 if you’re famished

½ pound spaghetti
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
½ tsp or more chile pepper flakes
¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
grated parmesan (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add 1 Tbsp salt and the pasta. Cook according to the package directions until al dente (with a bit of bite and definitely not mushy).

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and gently sauté the garlic and the chile flakes in a large skillet. This will only take a minute or two. You do not want to brown the garlic or burn it. When the pasta is done, scoop it out of the water and place in the pan with the garlic, olive oil and chile flakes. Reduce the heat. Toss to coat the pasta until any excess water is absorbed (only a minute or two). Taste and add salt or more chile flakes, if desired. Stir in the parsley. Place in bowls and garnish with parmesan – if using.