It’s not a new idea, but it’s definitely worth remembering, rediscovering or reinventing.

There’s something about pasta, cooked properly, that trumps all the other possibilities. And the smell of pasta boiling is a heady cheap thrill. With a few basic staple pantry items, a true feast can be ready in minutes. Good spaghetti, good olive oil, garlic and a little red pepper are all you need, plus some anchovy and capers if you have them.

The concept is rather simple. Hunger, pasta, problem solved. Known in Italy as spaghettata di mezzanotte, a late-night meal for revelers who are famished, sometimes it is served much later, in the wee hours of the morning. For that matter, though, it’s a good trick to have up your sleeve at other times, too.

Say you’ve been to a holiday cocktail party or two. There were snacks but nothing substantial or really all that appealing. Perhaps you went to a show, and later for a drink, only to realize no nearby restaurant is one you’re inclined to visit. In addition, you remember that lunch, so long ago, was a snack, some Christmas cookies from a tray at work.

Suddenly you’re starving. Even though there are options for some kind of dining (after-hours places, mediocre take-out, a slice of indifferent pizza, a taco truck), my advice is to go home and cook.

There’s something about pasta, cooked properly, that trumps all the other possibilities. And the smell of pasta boiling is a heady cheap thrill. With a few basic staple pantry items, a true feast can be ready in minutes. Good spaghetti, good olive oil, garlic and a little red pepper are all you need, plus some anchovy and capers if you have them. (I prefer salt-packed anchovies and capers, but anchovies in oil and capers in brine are fine.) If you cook it al dente, even grated cheese is unnecessary.

Sure, if you’re suddenly ambitious, you could whip up a carbonara or a puttanesca, or an impromptu creation from leftovers in the fridge. But for me, midnight pasta is all about simplicity.

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ pound spaghetti
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 anchovy filets, rinsed and roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and roughly chopped
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, optional
  • Parmesan for grating, optional

PREPARATION

  1. Put the spaghetti in a large pot of well-salted rapidly boiling water and cook only until firmly al dente. (Depending on the brand of pasta, this will be 8 to 10 minutes, but check frequently to see. )
  2. While the pasta is cooking, warm the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute, without letting it brown. Stir in the anchovies, capers and red pepper and cook for a half-minute more, then turn off the heat.
  3. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Pour in the garlic mixture, add the parsley, if using, and toss well to coat. Serve with grated Parmesan if desired.

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