Spaghetti Aglio e Olio

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Classic Spaghetti Aglio e Olio is easy to make with just 4 simple ingredients (spaghetti, olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper flakes), it comes together in 20 minutes, and it is always such a winner.

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio Recipe

Guys, have you made spaghetti aglio e olio before?

Barclay and I saw this classic pasta dish on menus everywhere during our trip to Rome and Naples a few years ago, and have enjoyed perfecting our version of it at home ever since.  It’s ultra-easy to make with just four ingredients — garlic (aglio), olive oil (olio), spaghetti, and a hint of red chile peppers.  But while Italians typically use chopped fresh red chiles (peperoncini) in this dish, fresh red chile peppers can be a bit harder to find here in Spain and elsewhere around the world.  So we typically just use a generous pinch of crushed red pepper flakes from our pantry.

That said, I learned on our trip to Italy that I had actually been making this dish wrong in years past, when I used to just toss spaghetti in the garlicky oil once it had finished cooking.  The key to creating a gorgeous, glossy, non-greasy sauce is to create an emulsion with the garlicky oil and that magical starchy pasta water (the key to most good pasta sauces!).  All you have to do transfer the pasta and a half-ish cup of that hot starchy pasta water directly into the pan of garlicky oil one minute before the pasta is done cooking.  Then while you toss the pasta, all of that heat and starch will help the garlic oil emulsify into a beautiful glossy sauce, while the pasta soaks up some extra garlicky flavors as it finishes cooking.

It’s a simple tweak that’s guaranteed to kick your aglio e olio up a delicious notch, and it could not be easier.  So grab some garlic and olive oil, and let’s make this classic pasta dish together!

Aglio e Olio (Garlic and Olive Oil Sauce)

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio Ingredients:

First, a brief chat about the ingredients needed to make spaghetti aglio e olio (pronounced “ah-lee-oh eh oh-lee-oh”)…

  • Spaghetti: Or linguine, fettuccine, or any other shape of pasta noodle you prefer.
  • Olive oil: Since olive oil is the main ingredient in this sauce, I really recommend using the best-quality extra virgin olive oil you can find.  It will make a difference!
  • Garlic: I admittedly like tons of garlic in this pasta (like, closer to 10-12 cloves).  But it is traditionally made with between 4-8 cloves.  So you do what sounds best to you!
  • Crushed red pepper flakes: Traditional spaghetti aglio e olio is made with fresh peperoncini (red hot chile peppers) that are commonly found throughout Italy.  But since they are harder to find in other countries, I have written this recipe using dried crushed red pepper flakes, which we will simmer in the olive oil to bring out their best flavor.
  • Optional garnishes: The two most popular toppings for this classic Italian dish are finely-minced fresh parsley and/or freshly-grated Parmesan.  I love adding both, but they are totally optional.

Detailed ingredient amounts and instructions listed in the full recipe below.

How To Make Aglio e Olio

How To Make Spaghetti Aglio e Olio:

To make classic spaghetti aglio e olio, simply…

  1. Cook the spaghetti. Cook the spaghetti in a generously-salted pot of boiling water until it is just one minute shy of being al dente.
  2. Sauté the garlic.  Meanwhile, about 3 minutes after you add the pasta to the boiling water, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the sliced garlic and crushed red pepper flakes and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the garlic is lightly golden.
  3. Toss the pasta in the sauce.  Once the pasta is ready to go, use tongs to transfer the pasta immediately to the sauté pan, along with 1/2 cup of the hot starchy pasta water.  Toss the pasta continuously until it is evenly coated in the garlic sauce.  If the sauce looks a bit too dry, add in another 1/4 cup of the starchy pasta water.
  4. Taste and season.  Give the pasta a quick taste add an extra pinch of salt and/or crushed red pepper flakes if needed.
  5. Serve. Serve immediately while it’s nice and hot, garnished with any toppings that sound good.

A few important tips:

  • Have all of your ingredients ready to go.  Things move fairly quickly once the pasta begins to cook, so I recommend having all of your ingredients laid out, chopped and ready to go.
  • It’s important that the garlic not burn.  If turns lightly golden before the pasta is ready to go, just remove the pan from the heat until it’s time to add the pasta.
  • Don’t forget to salt that pasta water! You’ve heard me say it before, but this is the main time that you really get to season the pasta itself.  So be sure to add a generous helping of sea salt to the water.

Aglio e Olio Recipe

Possible Variations:

There are all sorts of variations that you can make on this recipe!  For example, feel free to…

  • Add anchovies: This is another popular option in Italy!  Finely chop up a few anchovies and sauté them in the garlic sauce to add some extra salty umami flavor to this dish.
  • Add basil: This pasta would also be delicious sprinkled with chopped fresh basil instead of parsley, if you happen to have some on hand.
  • Add extra crushed red pepper flakes: If you would like your pasta to have more heat, feel free to double (or even triple!) the amount of crushed red pepper flakes.
  • Use minced or smashed garlic: If thin slices of garlic aren’t your thing, you are welcome to mince (or press) the garlic instead.  Or you can just smash the whole garlic cloves and sauté them to infuse the olive oil, then remove and discard the cloves before adding the pasta to the sauce.
  • Add a protein: Of course, you are also welcome to add any cooked protein (such as chicken, shrimp, steak, or pork) to your spaghetti.
  • Add veggies: And/or you can add in any cooked veggies that you love too (such as broccoli, mushrooms, bell peppers, onion, etc).

More Classic Italian Pasta Recipes:

Looking for more classic Italian pasta recipes?  Here are a few of my faves:

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Spaghetti Aglio e Olio

  • Author: Ali
  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 20 mins
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings 1x

Description

This classic Spaghetti Aglio e Olio recipe is easy to make with just 4 simple ingredients in 20 minutes.  Please tweak the amount of garlic and crushed red pepper flakes to your liking!


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup good-quality olive oil
  • 6 to 8 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)
  • optional garnishes: chopped fresh parsley, freshly-grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Cook the spaghetti. Bring a large stockpot of generously-salted water to a boil.  Add spaghetti and cook until nearly al dente (like, just one minute shy of being done).
  2. Sauté the garlic.  Meanwhile, about 3 minutes after you add the pasta to the boiling water, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the sliced garlic and crushed red pepper flakes and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, or until it is lightly golden.  (It’s very important that the garlic not burn.  So if the pasta is not ready to go by the time the garlic is lightly golden, remove the sauté pan from the heat until the pasta is ready.)
  3. Toss the pasta in the sauce.  As soon as the pasta is ready to go, use tongs to transfer the pasta to the sauté pan, along with 1/2 cup of the hot starchy pasta water.  Toss the pasta continuously until it is evenly coated in the garlic sauce.  If the sauce looks a bit too dry, add in another 1/4 cup of the starchy pasta water.
  4. Taste and season.  Give the pasta a quick taste add an extra pinch of salt and/or crushed red pepper flakes if needed.
  5. Serve. Serve immediately while it’s nice and hot, garnished with any toppings that sound good.


Notes

Storage instructions: Refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 3 days.  (These noodles also taste delicious served cold!)

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5 comments on “Spaghetti Aglio e Olio”

  1. I grew up eating this on Fridays during Lent. My mother served it with banana peppers that she canned instead of the crushed red pepper. Sometimes to mix it up she would drain a can of tuna fish and add that. Thank you for sharing and evoking a cherished memory.

  2. “I admittedly like tons of garlic in this pasta (like, closer to 10-12 cloves).”

    You’re adapting to living in Spain, aren’t you? My partner is half Spanish and nothing that requires garlic is cooked in our kitchen with less than 4 cloves. XD

    Looking forward to making this! We recently bought some quality olive oil, which we both love. Plus, garlic. Yum!

  3. I love this dish. Try adding fresh mint, you’ll love it. It doesn’t taste at all minty but gives a nice little herby sharpness to the dish. I add whatever is in my herb garden and I’ve never been disappointed. I used to use a different recipe that had you remove the garlic before adding the pasta but I love garlic so leaving it in is better.

  4. I grew up on this and have always loved it. We topped ours with grated cheese and toasted bread crumbs.

  5. wow this is so nice,I love Italian dishes