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For fast, fabulous pasta, start with aglio e olio

10 Recipes
Oil being poured from a pot into a dish of pasta
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

10 divine pasta recipes you can put on the table in half an hour or less

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Back in July, my colleague, food columnist Jenn Harris wrote about cacio e pepe‘s current grasp on the American palate. Ubiquitous and delicious, it certainly qualifies as a divine dish that can be made start to finish in less than 30 minutes. But while cacio e pepe has a stronghold on restaurant menus and is easy enough to make at home, the real star of flavorful, home-cooked fast food is the dizzyingly delicious aglio e olio.

Pure Italian comfort food, it is as simple as three ingredients: thin stringy pasta, garlic and extra-virgin olive oil. Some add chopped parsley — for color and more flavor (if that’s really possible) as the combination of parsley, olive oil and garlic is a holy trinity.

Eat it regularly and you may want some variety (or not). Add some protein like an egg, sardines or anchovies. Add vegetables, like broccoli rabe or cauliflower, mushrooms or olives. Use a different pasta shape — penne, orecchiette or whatever you happen to have on hand. (Non-stringy shapes may be considered sacrilege in Italy, but hey, this is California. We do things our way.)

Want to take it up a notch? Add sea urchin and clams. (There is a theory that aglio e olio is simply a version of linguini and clams minus the clams.) If you prefer to fashion your own variation, leftovers in your refrigerator are a good place to start — chicken, shrimp, legumes, greens. There is little that would not work as an addition.

Cacio e pepe may be having a moment in the spotlight but aglio e olio is in it for the long haul.

Cacio e pepe

Three ingredients: spaghetti, pecorino cheese and black pepper. That and a little of the salted water the pasta was cooked in. Toss them together, and you have a great dish.
Time 25 minutes
Yields Serves 6

Aglio e olio

Aglio e olio is the Italian classic no-sauce sauce of olive oil and garlic. Chile pepper, a squeeze of lemon, a pinch of salt and a bit of chopped parsley make the pasta pop.
Time 15 minutes
Yields About 4 servings

Spaghetti with bottarga and fried egg

Chef Hiro Sone tops a tangle of spaghetti and tender, young rapini with a sunny-side-up egg, showered with bottarga (dried tuna roe).
Time 30 minutes
Yields Serves 4

Spaghetti with sea urchins and clams

When heated, uni melts into a kind of slightly buttery, subtly briny cream that add texture and depth of flavor to the sauce of classic Italian spaghetti with clams.
Time 25 minutes
Yields Serves 6

Midnight Pasta

In the Italian tradition of spaghettata, piping hot pasta cooked at home late at night, this spaghetti is laden with garlic, capers and pine nuts. Add red chile flakes to taste.
Time 20 minutes
Yields Serves 4

Pasta chi sardi a mari

Saute canned sardines in olive oil, garlic and fennel seeds. Toss with pasta, chopped parsley and fennel fronds and golden raisins. Top with bread crumbs toasted in sardine oil.
Time 30 minutes
Yields Serves 4 to 6

Pasta with broccoli, olives and pistachios

In this Sicilian recipe the broccoli is cooked twice -- first blanched and then sauteed in olive oil with pistachios, anchovies and chopped olives.
Time 35 minutes
Yields Serves 6

Penne with Caramelized Cauliflower, Garlic and Chile

Caramelized cauliflower adds depth to a simple pasta, teeming with garlic and chile flakes.
Time 35 minutes
Yields Serves 4

Orecchiette With Broccoli Rabe and Garlic Bread Crumbs

This simple pasta dish is all about textures--crisp-tender broccoli rabe, slightly chewy orecchiette, crunchy garlic bread crumbs and creamy ricotta cheese, which melts into a sauce.
Time 30 minutes
Yields Serves 4

Caramelized Lemon Pasta With Mushrooms and Broccoli

Caramelized lemon adds umami flavor to this vegetarian pasta, packed with mushrooms and broccoli, finished with a grating of fresh parm.
Time 45 minutes
Yields Serves 4 to 6