The Luxury of Simplicity

Take a moment to appreciate the magic of pasta.

Photograph by Getty Images/Lauri Patterson

Pasta is pure alchemy. You take two ingredients—eggs and flour—and mix and knead and roll them together, only to wind up with something incomparable to any other food on earth: chewy and tender, hearty and delicate, delightfully springy and just the right amount of silky. It is the quintessence of a humble family meal and of a world-class culinary display, yet in both settings, its quality rests in its simplicity. For example, take a classic Southern Italian dish: aglio e olio, which translates as “garlic and oil.” This simple pasta calls for only a few ingredients, yet the result can be almost otherworldly.


Cook some spaghetti in heavily salted water until a bit firmer than al dente, then reserve about half a cup of the cooking water.

In the meantime, gently sauté a few cloves of minced garlic, along with a sprinkling of chili flakes, in a generous glug of olive oil. Cook the garlic until it’s translucent but not browned.

Toss in the pasta and reserved water and cook, stirring frequently, until each strand of pasta is coated in the sauce and the pasta is tender. Throw on some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt, black pepper, and a drizzle…

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