Here’s something new and interesting – normally when you think of a stir fry, you imagine it’s made with rice or maybe some Asian-style noodles. But there’s no reason you can’t stir fry just plain old pasta, which we realized once we saw this recipe in the New York Times. It takes spaghetti, some veggies, and a few other interesting ingredients and combines them all in a wok to make for a really flavorful dish that’s somewhere between Italian and Chinese food (and which you can also easily make vegan). We adapted this recipe for ourselves and had a great time preparing everything from scratch, so we’ll walk you through how we improved upon this really fun and tasty dish.
To make this, you’ll need:
You can start by making some chili oil: measure 1 1/2 cups of oil into a pot and add in 5 whole star anise, a cinnamon stick, 2 bay leaves, 3 crushed garlic cloves, and 3 tablespoons of Sichuan peppercorns. Warm the oil over medium heat until it reaches 225°F (use a candy thermometer to measure this), then turn the heat down to low or medium-low to keep the temperature between 200°F and 225°F. Let the oil heat on the stove for 30 minutes.
Then pour 3/4 cup of red pepper flakes into a heat-proof bowl, and set a mesh strainer over the bowl. Pour the oil through the strainer into the bowl and over the red pepper flakes, so that the spices and herbs that were in the oil get left behind.
Now you have some chili oil! Set it aside for now.
Next you can boil your pasta, and make sure you scoop out 3/4 cup of cooking water to use for later. While you’re waiting slice up your mushrooms, and also make a spice blend by grinding a teaspoon of Sichuan peppercorns, 3 star anise, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves in a small food processor until you have an evenly mixed powder. Warm 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a large wok and cook the mushrooms for about 8 minutes, stirring every so often. Then grate 2 garlic cloves into the pan and also stir in your spice mix, plus some salt and pepper, and cook for just a minute or so.
Set aside the mushrooms and now cut your broccoli into florets and warm another 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in the wok over medium-high heat. Cook the broccoli, seasoned with salt and pepper, for 5 minutes and then set that aside as well.
Place the drained spaghetti in the wok. Whisk together 3 tablespoons of soy sauce with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of your chili oil and pour that over the pasta. Add in 3 tablespoons of butter (or a butter substitute) and your pasta cooking water and use tongs or a spaghetti serving spoon to move everything around in the pan to help make a smooth sauce. Add in the broccoli and mushrooms and cook for just a few seconds longer to mix everything together.
Now remove the wok from the heat and scoop up servings of spaghetti topped with extra chili oil and sliced scallions.
So there you have a nice alternative to a traditional stir fry. Everyone loves spaghetti, and it’s even better when paired with two veggies, a bunch of different spices, some salty soy sauce, and a spicy chili oil. We especially loved making that oil – we’ve never prepared some of our own before, and this recipe gives you a ton left over so you can use it for many days to come on all kinds of meals. We enjoyed this as a hearty dinner that gave us both vegetables and carbs plus tons of flavor, so it’s a good way to meld two different cuisines into one tasty meal.