If you’re addicted to all things spicy, this spicy linguine is bound to be your new favorite pasta. Learn how to whip up this daringly simple chili paste at home, which you can use to spice up literally any dish, then transform it into a bold and flavorful spicy linguine with a Calabrian chili pasta sauce that comes together in the time it takes for your water to boil.
Pasta 101: “The Marriage”
“The Marriage” in Italian cooking refers to the combining of cooked pasta with both its sauce and the starchy pasta water. Cooking your pasta al dente and incorporating pasta water is truly the secret to making restaurant-quality pasta at home.
To have a successful (pasta) marriage, follow these simple steps:
1: Choose the right pan. When heating pasta sauce (homemade or store-bought) always do so in a skillet large enough to incorporate all the cooked pasta eventually being added.
2: Cook the pasta to al dente. Always cook for one minute short of the package instructions.
3: Reserve the pasta water. Just before draining your pasta, use a coffee mug or liquid measuring cup to scoop out approximately 1/2 cup of starchy pasta water per every lb. of pasta and set aside.
4: “Marry” the pasta with the sauce. Immediately after draining, add the pasta to the large skillet with the heated sauce. Pour in the reserved pasta water in 2 batches while tossing to combine. Depending on the recipe, you may need more or less of the starchy pasta water.
How to Make Spicy Chili Paste
This recipe calls for spicy chili paste, which is not only incredibly easy to make but will drastically level up your homemade condiment game. To make a homemade chili paste, simply steep dried chilis in hot water, strain out most of the liquid, and blend.
A few things to note:
- Use any (yes, any) dried chili. Dried Szechuan chilis would make a paste perfect to add heat to Asian stir fries. Or try using dried Anaheim peppers for a much milder version of chili paste that will add subtle smokiness to your next taco night. You can also transform the pantry staple crushed red pepper flakes by using this same technique.
- For this spicy linguine, we used Calabrian chilis, a type of chili pepper grown in Calabria in Southern Italy. Calabrian peppers are intensely flavorful. Spicy– yes, but their notes of fruitiness and smokiness deliver a complex flavor profile. You’ll find these most easily online.
- Use a high-speed, high-powered blender. Because the mixture for the chili paste is thick, using a good blender is key. If your standard countertop blender is a little on the weaker side, try your small smoothie-sized blender or mini food processor, or you can even use a high-quality immersion blender.
Spicy Linguine With Homemade Calabrian Chili Paste
- 1 High-powered blender or immersion blender
- 1 Large pasta pot
- 1 Large skillet or dutch oven
Homemade Calabrian Chili Paste
- 1/3 cup dried Calabrian chilis* approx. 25 whole chilis
- 2 cups boiling water
- kosher salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil
- 3 medium shallots thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon anchovy paste**
- 4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons non pareille capers drained & patted dry
- 1 large lemon zest and juice
- 2 tablespoons Calabrian chili paste
- 1 lb dried linguine pasta
- 1/2 cup reserved pasta water
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano plus extra for serving
- 2 tablespoons butter***
- 1/2 cup Italian parsley finely chopped
Homemade Calabrian Chili Paste
- Using a kitchen scissor snip your whole, dried Calabrian chilis* into small rings, discarding the stems. Measure out 1/3 cup of the snipped chilis including the seeds and transfer into a heat proof bowl. Pour over 2 cups of boiling water and cover with cling film. Steep for 30 minutes.
- Strain the soaked chilis, reserving 3 tablespoons of the steeping liquid. Blend in a high-powered blender or using an immersion blender with the reserved steeping liquid until a paste forms. Paste will be thick with some whole seeds likely remaining. Salt to taste.
- Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. While waiting for the water to boil, prep your sauce ingredients (the sauce comes together quickly, so it's best to have everything ready). Thinly the shallots and garlic. Measure and dry the capers. Mince the parsley and finely grate the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Gather the tomato paste, anchovy paste,** Calabrian chili paste, lemon and butter.***
- Warm the extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the thinly sliced shallots and salt and pepper to taste. Sauté for 1-2 minutes until the shallots are just translucent.
- Add the tomato paste and anchovy paste. Break up the pastes with the back of a wooden spoon and cook until the mixture turns from bright red to rusty red, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and the capers. Sauté until the garlic begins to tan slightly in color, then immediately kill the heat.
- Add lemon zest and juice off the heat to help bring down the temperature of the pan. Finally, add in your Calabrian chili paste, tasting between each spoonful to make sure you can handle the heat. Keep in mind that at this point your sauce should taste intensely flavorful– slightly overly spicy and salty because the flavor will be diluted with the addition of the pasta and pasta water. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Once boiling, salt the pasta water liberally. Add the linguine and stir every so often to prevent from sticking. Cook the linguine to al dente, one minute short of the package instructions. Just before draining, use a coffee mug or liquid measuring cup to scoop out starchy pasta water and set it aside.
- Turn the heat back on under your large skillet and add in the linguine right after draining. Add the grated Parmesan over the dry pasta then toss with the sauce.
- To marry the pasta with the sauce pour in the reserved pasta water, 1/4 cup at a time and toss to combine. Finally, add in the butter and finely chopped parsley and toss once more. Serve immediately with extra Parmigiano-Reggiano and Calabrian chili paste on the side.