One of my favorite Italian traditions is spaghettata, a feast of piping hot pasta cooked at home late at night, often after you’ve come home from the bar, when you are hungry and not quite ready for bed. Substitutions abound in this recipe. Instead of capers, try using another small, salty ingredient like olives or anchovies. Swap out the pine nuts for a rich, buttery ingredient like chopped walnuts or grated hard cheese.
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring often, until light golden, about 1 minute. Add the pine nuts, capers and a pinch or two of chile flakes, if using, and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until the nuts are toasted, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente. (Taste a noodle after 5 minutes and again every minute thereafter. The pasta is done when it tastes soft but still has a pleasantly chewy resistance when you bite down.)
Reserve about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta. Transfer the noodles directly to the skillet, set it over medium-high heat, and add about three-quarters of the reserved water and the remaining 3 tablespoons oil. Cook, stirring often, until the sauce coats the noodles, 1 to 2 minutes. There should be a little sauce pooling at the bottom of the skillet; if there is not, add more cooking water and stir well. Season with more salt and pepper, if you like, and serve hot.