The simplest recipe I know is for Aglio E Olio — pasta with garlic and oil. I base mine on the recipe I found in The Best Recipe, an excellent cookbook.
It really is just pasta with garlic and oil. If I’m cooking for myself, I take three cloves of garlic and shop them finely. I slowly cook the garlic in 4 or 5 tablespoons of olive oil over a very low heat. The very low heat is important: there’s nothing worse than burnt garlic. You want to give the garlic a chance to mellow out and infuse itself into the olive oil. This takes about 25 minutes, and you will be impatient and turn up the heat the first time: don’t. Give it time.
Halfway through the garlic simmering, put some pasta on to boil (following appropriate water-salting guidelines; if you’re not salting your water you haven’t lived yet). You may also want to place a large bowl in the oven on low heat to warm up: nothing like a warm pasta bowl.
Once the garlic has turned a lovely shade of yellow-brown — the specific colour you’re looking for is tawny (which makes cub scouts extra especially qualified to judge) — remove it from the heat, drizzle all the oil and garlic over your drained pasta in a (perhaps heated) bowl.
Eat quickly, as it’s best very, very hot.
If you’ve done it right, it will be the best thing on earth. If something’s gone wrong, you will regret you ever tried. Don’t. Try again next time, making subtle adjustments (you probably overcooked or undercooked the garlic).
Works very well with crusty bread and hearty red wine.