This dish is known as Pepperoncino in Japan. It is based on the oldest Italian pasta dish Aglio, Olio e Pepperoncino (garlic, oil and chillis), but tweaked slightly for the Japanese market with bacon and sometimes even soy sauce. It only contains 4 main ingredients (the others are optional), but is difficult to get perfect. It uses a lot of olive oil so is very healthy and can be used as part of a diet. Mop up the left over oil with a good piece of bread!
Ingredients (for 3 average portions)
1 or 2 bird’s eye chilli
2 cloves of garlic
2 rashers of fatty bacon
2 handfuls of thin pasta
1/3 cup of high quality olive oil
small knob of butter
1 or 2 tbs rock salt
Peel and slice the garlic into 1mm slices.
Heat 1/3 cup of olive oil on a medium heat. Above you can see that the amount of oil being used is more than you’d expect. Don’t worry, olive oil is good for you 😉
Fry the garlic and chopped chilli (here I am using dry chilli flakes for convenience.)
Chop the rashers of bacon and add with the garlic when the garlic has started to turn yellow. If when you add the bacon the oil makes a noise, then your heat is too high. You should just be able to see bubbles around the bacon forming to show the temperature is correct. Fry for 10-15 mins slowly.
Add a tbs full of rock salt to a pot of boiling water. Depending on the type of salt you use, this could require 2 tbs. Don’t worry, it can’t be too salty (up to 2tbs) if you are using thin pasta as the pasta won’t soak too much of the water. When dropping the pasta into the water, twist it at the middle and it will fall perfectly and not stick together. The cooking time should be 1.5 minutes less than what the cooking instructions tell you. You will see why…
The bacon in the oil should have released juices and the mixture will look glazed. The fat on the bacon should start to change colour. Take the pasta out 1.5 mins before the instructions say, and add with tongs to the bacon/oil mixture in the pan, keeping the heat at the same level. Add one large spoonful of the water from the pasta, mix, then repeat if required to loosen and flavour the pasta. Taste to check the saltiness, and add another spoonful if necessary. Then add a small knob of butter and even a small drop of soy sauce if you wish. The pasta is still being heated, and as you toss, it will continue to cook which is why you removed it from the boiling water 1.5 mins early. Test the firmness of the pasta to make sure it is al dente and serve.
This recipe is difficult to explain since everyone’s tastes are varied. Your first attempt may not be salty enough, so you can always alter at the end with more water from the pasta, butter or soy sauce. It is therefore essential that you taste the pasta when you have added it to the pan, then alter as required. If it is too salty at this stage, add a spoonful of hot water instead. Have fun!