This classic Spaghetti Aglio e Olio, or Garlic and Oil Pasta, is a truly easy pasta recipe. This very popular Italian pasta recipe is made with just 4 basic ingredients: spaghetti, olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper flakes, and it's ready in less than 15 minutes.
An easy Italian recipe that is vegan, vegetarian, sugar-free, dairy-free, and could be made gluten-free.
If there is one Italian pasta recipe that we make on constant rotation, it would have to be this one! Fast and flavorful like our easy pasta Amatriciana or even our pasta with ricotta and peas (soooo good!).
Allow us to introduce you to a fast and easy Italian pasta recipe that is truly delicious: authentic spaghetti with fresh garlic, olive oil, and hot pepper flakes. This is another pasta recipe that I make without following a recipe.
I can't even remember when I first learned how to make it. It's one of the first recipes I made on my own. Since it is so simple to make, once you learn how to make it, you'll add this to your pasta repertoire.
The dreamy part of the recipe is the garlic. It has to be cooked until it's golden. If they're too light, they're raw and crunchy, too dark, they will be bitter. Some of the starchy pasta water is what helps to bring the lovely sauce together.
Let's get onto cooking one of my absolute favorite pastas: aglio, olio e peperoncino!
How do you pronounce aglio e olio?
Spaghetti aglio e olio is pronounced “ah-lee-oh eh oh-lee-oh”.
Why we love this Italian pasta recipe?
- Made with pantry ingredients: I bet you have every thing on hand to make this pasta recipe right now!
- Vegan + dairy free: This pasta is totally vegan and naturally dairy-free. So it's nice to make for friends/family that are vegan or dairy-free.
- Ready in minutes: The garlic and oil sauce comes together in no time. As soon as the pasta cooks up, it's combined with the sauce and some starchy pasta water.
- Gluten-free: Make it gluten-free, if you like! Use your favorite GF spaghetti or any other GF long pasta.
What ingredients are in aglio e olio?
Here is all you need to make this classic Italian pasta dish (full printable recipe is below):
- Pasta: Use spaghetti, bucatini, linguine, fettuccine, or any long pasta you enjoy.
- Olive oil: Olive oil is the main feature of the sauce, so I highly recommend using a very good quality extra-virgin olive oil. Even if you get a small bottle, you'll notice the flavor difference.
- Garlic: Fresh garlic is best. You could even use garlic that bottled minced garlic. I used fresh and cut the cloves into big slices. If using fresh, you'll use between 5-10 cloves (depending on how big the cloves are and how much garlic you like...we used 6).
- Crushed red pepper flakes: When you get your hands on peperoncini (red hot chili peppers) at any produce market (depending if you're in the States, you could use another type of red hot pepper), grab them, and make this pasta! My Calabrian mother-in-law gives us jars of them that she preserves in Italy every summer (amazingly hot!). In place of fresh, use crushed red pepper flakes.
- Salt: I used sea salt for the garlic oil sauce (you could use kosher salt). I use coarse salt to salt the pasta water.
- Parsley: An optional topping is parsley. I only use fresh Italian parsley (no dried parsley). Chop up the leaves (not the stems).
How to make spaghetti aglio e olio?
Here's how to make classic spaghetti aglio e olio…(full printable recipe below)
Gather up the ingredients and get started with boiling the water.
While you're waiting for the water to boil, heat a large skillet with the olive oil.
Once the water is boiling, add the salt, add the spaghetti.
A few minutes after you have the pasta boiling, add the garlic slices to the heated oil and shake the pan or use a spoon to keep the garlic moving. Sauté the garlic until it is a nice light golden brown (should take 3-5 minutes).
Add in the hot pepper flakes (or peperoncino) and stir to combine with the garlic and oil.
Once the garlic reaches the light golden color, remove the pan from the heat while the pasta keeps cooking. Stir in the parsley (you could reserve some to toss on top at the end, it's up to you).
Cook the pasta until it's just before al dente (set a timer for 1 minute less than the cooking time on the pasta instructions so you don't forget ). Reserve a 1/2 cup of starchy pasta water.
Add the pan back onto medium-high heat. Drain the pasta and immediately add to the pan with the garlic oil. Add in the reserved pasta water and toss to combine.
Plate up the pasta and add some more fresh chopped parsley and pepper flakes (if you like).
Tips for the best aglio e olio:
- Prep the ingredients: Since it's such a quick recipe to make, have your ingredients ready to go. Prep the fresh garlic and chop up the parsley.
- Generously salt pasta water: Salt the pasta water. If you forget to salt it, the pasta will be very bland.
- Keep an eye on the garlic: As soon as it turns a light golden brown, remove the pan from the heat and wait for the pasta to be ready to add.
- Adjust the heat: If you're making this for kids, leave out the hot pepper flakes. If you like it very spicy, add more pepper flakes to your taste.
Yes, use your favorite gluten-free spaghetti brand.
We are cooking the pasta a little bit less than al dente (about 2 minutes less), so set your timer for two minutes before it should be ready.
The most traditional pasta type is spaghetti, however, you could use any long pasta like bucatini, linguine, even angel-hair pasta.
What is a Spaghettata di Mezzanotte?
In Italy spaghetti aglio e olio is also called spaghetti aglio olio e peperoncino, or the spaghettata di mezzanotte. Peperoncino is the red hot chili peppers.
There were many summers when I was living in Italy that my friends and I would enjoy a nice spaghettata di mezzanotte—"midnight spaghetti". That is the Italian after-party tradition of enjoying a very garlicky and very spicy plate of spaghetti after being out with friends.
Since it's super easy to make, very flavorful, and has a kick of spice, it's the perfect no-fuss pasta to make with friends.
How to cook pasta
- Use a big pot: First thing is to fill a large pot with enough water. Especially when you're using spaghetti (or any long pasta), you need enough water so the pasta has room to cook. For every 3.5 ounces of pasta, you'll need 4 cups of water. Keep in mind the pasta does expand as it cooks.
- Salt the water: Once the water is boiling, add the salt. If using one pound of pasta, use 1.5 tablespoons of salt. Do not use less than that. You may think it's too much salt, but it really isn't. And if you don't properly salt the cooking water, you'll have a very bland pasta.
- Stir frequently: Do not leave the pot. It could boil over and also, you have to keep stirring it. The pasta has to keep at a rolling boil, so do not lower the heat to a simmer (it won't cook!).
- Drain the pasta: Reserve some of the pasta water before draining it and do not rinse it with cold water. You will be adding it immeditiately to the pan with the aglio e olio sauce (with some of the reserved starchy pasta water).
Is olive oil necessary for aglio olio?
Yes, a definite YES! It is one of the main ingredients and I highly recommend using a very good quality extra-virgin olive oil. Even if you splurge on a small bottle and will use it for a handful of recipes, it is worth the investment.
Is it authentic to add parsley to pasta with garlic and oil?
Yes, it is. Take a trip to Naples and you will see it added to this pasta dish. Actually, if you go around different parts of Italy, you'll see parsley added to it. It's your choice to add some, or not. If you do decide to use it, use the Italian parsley.
Should you serve aglio e olio with Parmigiano (or parmesan) cheese?
We never serve it with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, but you will find some regions of Italy do serve it with some grated pecorino.
Are red pepper flakes same thing as chili flakes?
No, they are different sorts of hot pepper flakes. Red pepper flakes are made with different sorts of hot red peppers with a variety of heat levels. And you will find the seeds in the bottle, along with the crushed and dried peppers flakes.
Keep in mind, the seeds do add more heat to the pepper flakes! Chili flakes are made with just chili peppers, and it's all one color (no seeds).
What to serve with garlic oil pasta?
Aglio e olio is a traditional Italian dish that goes so nicely with so many dishes. To start out the meal, you could add an antipasti platter with a variety of cheeses and cured meats, a mediterranean salad, and crusty bread or freshly baked focaccia.
How to store leftovers?
If you happen to have any leftovers, store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. Reheat in a skillet on medium-high heat for a couple minutes (add a little water to the pan so it won't be too dry).
Can I freeze aglio e olio?
I do not recommend freezing these leftovers.
When it comes to cooking pasta, the best oil to use is extra-virgin olive oil. It has a high smoke point and has a delicate flavor that won't overpower your dish. It also provides plenty of health benefits due to its antioxidant properties.
Garlic can be added at the start of cooking to infuse the oil with its flavor. Keep in mind that garlic burns easily, so it should be added towards the end if you don't want it to become too strong. If you are using fresh garlic, make sure to mince or finely chop it before adding it to your dish. This will ensure that the flavor of the garlic is evenly distributed throughout your pasta.
Aglio olio is a classic Italian pasta dish made with garlic, olive oil and sometimes chili flakes. The name comes from the combination of aglio (garlic) and olio (olive oil). It's an easy dish to make that requires minimal ingredients but still packs a flavorful punch.
Some other pasta recipes to enjoy:
Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
- 1 pound spaghetti
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or to taste
- Sea salt to taste (or kosher salt)
- ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
- Boil water: Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.
- Cook the pasta: Once the water is boiling, add in the spaghetti. Stir it in the boiling water. Keep stirring it while it’s cooking.
- Heat the olive oil: In a large sauté pan, add the oil on medium-high heat.
- Add the garlic: A few minutes after you have the pasta cooking and when the oil is shimmering, lower the heat of the sauté pan to medium. Add the garlic to the oil.
- Sauté the garlic: Cook the garlic until it is a nice light golden brown (should take 3-5 minutes). Add in the crushed red pepper flakes (or peperoncino) and stir to combine with the garlic and oil.
- Remove from the heat: Once the garlic reaches a light golden color, remove the pan from the heat. Meanwhile, the pasta keeps cooking . (Optional)Stir in the parsley (you could reserve some to toss on top at the end, it's up to you)and a teaspoon of salt.
- Drain the pasta: Cook the pasta until it's just before al dente (set a timer for 1 minute less than the cooking time on the pasta instructions so you don't forget). Reserve a 1/2 cup of starchy pasta water.
- Cook with sauce: Immediately add the drained pasta and the reserved pasta water to the garlic oil sauce. Use tongs or a spoon to continuously toss together for 1-2 minutes, until the pasta is finally al dente.
- Check the salt: Taste the pasta, and if needed, add salt. If you like it more spicy, add some more crushed red pepper flakes.
- Serve: Plate up the pasta while it’s very hot and ENJOY!
Please keep in mind that the nutritional information presented below is an approximation and may vary depending on the exact ingredients used.
- Pasta: I have only had this dish with spaghetti. If you want to stay authentic, use only spaghetti. Choose a very good quality spaghetti. If you can find bronze cut, that would be even better and will cook up nice and al dente.
- Olive oil: Use a very good quality extra-virgin olive oil. It is the base for the sauce, so keep that in mind, as it will make the sauce taste even better.
- Garlic: Adjust the amount of fresh garlic to your taste. You could slice it or mince it. The minced garlic will brown very quickly, so you'll have to carefully watch it while you cook it in the hot olive oil.
- Hot pepper: Adjust the heat to your liking. If you don't like spicy, do not add in any hot pepper flakes. My kids do not like spicy, so I only add it in for those that do.
- Add-in: This is a really great pasta dish to add seafood to. Shrimp or calamari would be great.
- Leftovers: Any leftovers will stay fresh in the fridge for a couple of days in an airtight container.
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