Ready in 20 minutes, spaghetti aglio e olio is a classic Italian pasta dish that only requires a few ingredients. It's one of those inexpensive weeknight meals that proves that simple can be delicious!
A quick and delicious pasta dinner is a go-to for many families. Similar to pesto pasta and cherry tomato pasta this classic Italian spaghetti with garlic and olive oil is one of those dishes that you can whip up any day of the week since it calls for ingredients that are shelf stable and probably already in your pantry.
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Italian spaghetti with garlic and olive oil
Spaghetti aglio e olio (pronounced ah-Lee-oh eg oh-Lee-oh) and literally translating to "spaghetti with garlic and olive oil" is a traditional Italian dish originating in southern Italy, possibly Naples. Just like lemon ricotta pasta, this dish is known for its simplicity and use of pantry staples.
Simply put, spaghetti is cooked until al dente and then mixed with a simple garlic-infused olive oil sauce which is made with the starchy pasta water. To add more flavor, I used crushed red peppers and a good amount of parmesan cheese. Both are optional but highly recommended.
Ingredients for spaghetti aglio e olio
- Spaghetti: The classic version of this dish calls for spaghetti, you can also use linguine or bucatini. It's best to use thin and long pasta for this recipe since it works better with an olive oil based sauce.
- Olive oil: Use the best extra virgin olive oil available to you since that's what gives it the most flavor.
- Garlic: You can use 6-10 garlic cloves to make pasta aglio e olio depending on how garlicky you'd like the dish to be.
- Crushed red pepper flakes: This is an optional addition to the recipe, however, it gives a nice subtle kick and a lot of flavor.
- Parmesan cheese: Although optional, freshly grated parmesan takes this dish to a whole new level and I highly recommend it.
- Parsley: I like to use a bit of chopped parsley for a pop of color and freshness.
How to make spaghetti aglio e olio
- Prepare the pasta: Bring a pot of water to a boil and add a good amount of kosher salt. Add in the pasta and cook it according to the packaging instructions, until the pasta is al dente.
- Make the sauce: While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the sliced garlic and cook for a few seconds. Then add the red pepper flakes and cook for about 3 minutes. Keep an eye and make sure not to burn the garlic.
- Add the pasta: To the aglio e olio sauce, add the pasta followed by 1 to 1 ½ cup of starchy pasta water to the sauce. Give it a gentle stir and cook for just a couple of minutes until the pasta is glossy and fully coated with the garlic sauce.
- Finishing touches: Add the parmesan and chopped parsley (if using) and give it a final toss. Let it sit for a few minutes and serve.
Tips to make this recipe perfectly
- Have it all prepared: Since this recipe comes together in only 20 minutes, it's best to have all your ingredients prepared. This means slice the garlic and grate the parmesan cheese before you start cooking.
- Don't burn the garlic: Garlic browns and burns easily, therefore it's important to keep and eye and make sure you're infusing the olive oil with garlic and not burning it.
- Season well: Make sure the pasta water is salty enough and taste the pasta before serving. Add more salt or parmesan cheese if needed.
- It's all in the pasta water: Since the pasta water contains the starch from the pasta, it makes the dish rich and creamy without the use of heavy cream. Make sure not to skip the pasta water so the result is silky and glossy.
Leftovers and reheating
Store the leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days. To reheat, place the pasta with a splash of water in a pan over medium heat. Stir and toss frequently so the pasta heats evenly. Top with more parmesan and enjoy.
Frequently asked questions
Yes, if you're going for a vegan spaghetti aglio e olio, you can simply leave out the parmesan.
The main reason that your spaghetti aglio e olio is bland is not salting the pasta water properly. The salt not only adds flavor to the pasta but also to the pasta water which you'll be using to make the sauce.
Other types of oils - including vegetable, canola and avocado oil - won't work for this recipe as they don't have the same flavor.
More pasta recipes
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Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
- 1 lb spaghetti
- ⅓ cup olive oil extra virgin
- 6 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper more if desired
- ½ cup grated parmesan
- ¼ cup parsley chopped
- Fill a pot with water and place it over medium high heat. Bring the water to a boil and add about 2 ½ tablespoons kosher salt to it. Add in the pasta and cook according to the packaging until al dente. This would take 7 to 10 minutes depending on the pasta. Remember to reserve 1 ½ cups of the pasta water for the sauce.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add in the garlic and cook for a few second. Add the crushed red pepper and cook for another 3 minutes. If the oil is infused before the pasta is done, turn the heat to low so the garlic doesn't burn.
- Once the pasta is ready, using a pair of tongs, take the pasta out of the pot and add to the olive oil and garlic followed by 1 cup of the pasta water. Cook on medium for 2 to 3 minutes until the sauce is thickened and glossy and the pasta is coated with the sauce. If the pasta seems dry, add another ½ cup pasta water.
- Stir in the grated parmesan and chopped parsley. Taste and add more salt or parmesan if needed. Let it sit for 5 minutes and then serve.
- You can use spaghetti, linguine or bucatini for this recipe. Since the sauce is olive oil based, it's best to use long and thin pasta for this recipe.
- Make sure the garlic is not browned or burned. We want the garlic to infuse the oil with its flavor.
- Generously salt the water before adding the pasta. This will make the pasta and later the garlic olive oil sauce very flavorful.
- The addition of the starchy pasta water makes this dish creamy and rich, make sure not to skip it.