Spaghetti Aglio e Olio is a classic Italian dish known for its simplicity and ease. Fresh garlic is sauteed in olive oil, then tossed with spaghetti, red pepper flakes, and parsley.
Spaghetti Aglio e Olio is an Italian classic. What I love about this recipe is that it’s meant to be made when you have nothing else in the pantry, or are pressed for time.
It’s likely that you already have the 5 ingredients you need on hand. On top of that, it’s ready in less than 20 minutes. It can be served alone or with any protein you have on hand.
I don’t like to mess with a classic, so this recipe is prepared the traditional way (from the research I’ve done). The most simple version of this recipe contains only spaghetti, olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes. I also like to add parsley, which adds color and fresh flavor.
For this recipe, you’ll need dry spaghetti, olive oil, red pepper flakes, slivered garlic cloves, and chopped parsley. I also like to season my dish with salt before serving.
First, bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook your spaghetti to almost al dente according to the package’s directions.
Next is a very important step. Before draining your pasta, reserve some of the pasta water. You’ll need one cup of pasta water (I like to grab a little extra just in case, since you can’t backtrack to this step again!).
To do this, use a ladle and pour some of your pasta water into a bowl or liquid measuring cup. Set this aside for now.
Now, go ahead and drain your spaghetti and set it aside as well.
Making your spaghetti aglio e olio
First, you’ll saute your garlic until it has lightly browned. Watch carefully, as garlic can go from brown to burned fairly quickly, especially if your slivers are thin.
After adding your red pepper flakes, you’ll add your spaghetti and reserved pasta water. Toss your spaghetti to coat, and cook for another minute or two, or until the liquid has thickened and pasta looks glossy.
The starchy pasta water and olive oil emulsify to create a sort of creamy sauce coating your pasta.
What else can I add?
If you’re looking to add more flavor to your spaghetti aglio e olio, there are many options. This dish is meant as a blank slate to add other ingredients you may have on hand.
Want to add protein? Slice a grilled chicken breast over top before serving. Or, top with my Sautéed Garlic Butter Shrimp.
Some American versions also add Parmesan cheese and/or breadcrumbs to the dish for more texture and flavor. If you’d like to add bread crumbs, add 1/2 cup to the sauteing garlic for 3 to 4 minutes and allow them to brown.
To add parmesan cheese, sprinkle a tablespoon on top of each plate just before serving.
Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 1/2 cup olive oil divided
- 8 cloves garlic slivered
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 cup pasta water
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- In a large stock pot, bring water to a boil. Boil spaghetti according to package directions, until almost al dente (pasta will finish cooking in a later step). Important - reserve 1 cup of your pasta water before draining pasta. Set aside.
- In a saute pan over medium heat, add 6 tablespoons of olive oil and slivered garlic. Saute for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until garlic is lightly golden. Add red pepper flakes and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
- Add spaghetti and reserved pasta water. Stir and cook until sauce becomes 'creamy' and coats pasta, about 2-3 minutes.
- Remove from heat, add remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, chopped parsley, and salt. Toss to coat. Serve and enjoy.
- Optionally, top spaghetti with a tablespoon of parmesan cheese for each serving.
- 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley can be substituted with 2 teaspoons of dry parsley.
What to serve with spaghetti aglio e olio
- Sautéed Garlic Butter Shrimp
- Pesto Mozzarella Chicken
- Bacon and Spinach Stuffed Chicken
- Lemon Butter Chicken
- Parmesan and Red Pepper Roasted Broccoli