This simple Spaghetti Aglio e Olio, a classic Italian pasta with garlic and olive oil, takes only 5 ingredients and less than 20 minutes to make! But don't miss my tips for the BEST aglio e olio recipe you'll try!
Aglio e Olio
Aglio e Olio, pronounced ah-li-oh eh oh-li-oh, translates to "garlic and olive oil."
Spaghetti aglio e olio is a traditional Italian dish that originated somewhere in the South of Italy likely in the area of Naples. It is basically spaghetti with garlic and olive oil, and it's considered somewhat of a lower-budget version of pasta with mussels!
It takes very few ingredients to make traditional pasta aglio e olio--thin pasta of your choice, garlic, olive oil, and red pepper flakes. The original recipe doesn't even include cheese! I did take the liberty of adding some freshly grated parmesan for extra flavor and texture, as well as parsley for a pop of color.
The secret to a creamy Spaghetti Aglio e Olio!
The secret to the creamy texture of this pasta dish is using a good extra virgin olive oil and the starchy water the pasta was boiled in. A little bit of the starchy pasta water makes acts as a binder and a thickener, and with the olive oil, creates a silky, rich sauce with very little effort and without the use of heavy cream!
Aglio e olio is a recipe you want to have on hand for last-minute dinners and busy weeknight you can make from pantry staples. As long as you have a bag of pasta, extra virgin olive oil and garlic on hand, there's no forethought required1
Ingredients you need to make Pasta Aglio e Olio
There are just a handful of very basic ingredients in this Italian classic. If you have pasta, olive oil and garlic, you can make this recipe!
- Spaghetti - Thin noodles are the best for this recipe, as they're best at absorbing the sauce and easiest to mix. If you don't have spaghetti, linguine or fettuccine will work.
- Extra virgin olive oil - Be sure to use high-quality olive oil, as this is one of the main ingredients. Here are my favorite olive oils, the Italian Nocellara EVOO is a good one to try here.
- Garlic - You'll need a good bit of garlic here as a main flavor maker (at least 8 garlic cloves). You can add extra but I definitely do not recommend using less. Slice the garlic thinly.
- Kosher Salt & Red Pepper Flakes - Kosher salt is used in the pasta water, while red pepper flakes add a little heat to the dish overall. Parsley is used as a garnish, primarily for color but it also adds a little flavor.
- Grated parmesan - Parmesan is an optional ingredient here, and you can omit it if you're looking for a vegan olive oil spaghetti. Freshly grated parmesan makes a big difference though.
How to make Spaghetti Aglio e Olio:
This easy garlic pasta recipe comes together quickly, in under 30 minutes! Perfect for dinner in a pinch.
- Prepare the pasta. Boil a large pot of water, and be sure to salt it well before adding the pasta. I use about 2 tablespoons of kosher salt. Cook the pasta according to package instructions, until al dante or a little before (you'll make the sauce before the pasta is done cooking using some of the starchy pasta water). You will need to reserve a good 1 ½ cup of the pasta water.
- Prepare the sauce. Don't wait until the pasta is fully cooked to make the sauce. At 4 to 5 minutes after you add the pasta to the boiling water, you can begin making the sauce. Warm your extra virgin olive oil over medium heat and add the garlic. Cook until the garlic is just turning golden (DO NOT brown the garlic), stirring regularly and managing the heat to prevent it from over-cooking. Add the red pepper flakes and toss for an additional 30 seconds. If the pasta is not ready, remove the oil from the heat and wait for the pasta.
- Add pasta water. Ladle the reserved pasta cooking water to the pan. Allow it to simmer until the liquid reduces by about ⅓.
- Add the pasta to the aglio e olio sauce. Once the sauce mixture has reduced, add in the cooked pasta. Toss for a few minutes, then turn off the heat and add parmesan and parsley. Toss to combine. I recommend allowing the pasta to sit for a couple of minutes, to absorb the sauce.
- Serve. Serve with more parmesan and red pepper flakes to the side.
Tips for Success
While this olive oil pasta recipe is super easy to make, there are a few simple tips to keep in mind. With these, you'll end up with the perfect aglio e olio pasta every time!
- Prep everything in advance. Once the pasta is added to the water, this recipe comes together quickly. You should have the garlic sliced and all other ingredients ready to go before you start.
- Use the right pasta. Olive oil-based sauces are best paired with thin pasta such as spaghetti, linguine, or similar.
- Use quality extra virgin olive oil. As I mentioned before, olive oil is what makes the pasta sauce with just a bit of the starchy water, so it is important to use a good-tasting quality olive oil which will enhance this beautiful pasta dish. Our Italian Nocellara EVOO is a logical choice here, but if you like something with a more robust peppery finish, try our Greek Early Harvest or Spanish Hojiblanca EVOO.
- Don't burn the garlic! Keep a careful eye on the garlic as you cook it, you are looking for the garlic to turn a slight golden color. Adjust the heat as needed. If it starts to burn, the best thing to do is just to start over with new olive oil and garlic. Burnt garlic is not the taste you want on this simple dish!
- Allow the pasta to sit before serving. After it has been tossed with the sauce and removed from heat, allow the pasta a couple more minutes to rest and absorb the sauce before serving.
This easy aglio e olio recipe can be the start of many delicious variations. If you enjoy anchovies, you can chop some up and add them here. If you have some roasted tomatoes or sauteed asparagus to use up, you can add them in--not traditional at all, but a fun twist anyway. And check out my earlier olive oil pasta recipe which is another take on this same idea.
Serve it with
Spaghetti aglio e olio is typically served as a main course. I usually start with a big salad, like Tomato Panzanella Salad, Balela Salad or a simple Tomato and Cucumber Salad. Some freshly baked bread or focaccia can also be served with it, perfect for enjoying every last drop of the sauce.
If you want to serve this as a side dish, it would pair well with simple proteins like: Chicken Schnitzel, Italian-style baked chicken breasts or salmon. You can slice the chicken or fish and serve it on top of the pasta.
How to store leftovers
Aglio e olio is best served immediately, as the oil will separate as it cools. However, any leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. For best results, reheat on the stovetop, tossing frequently. In a pinch, you can reheat in the microwave as well. I recommend adding a splash of water when reheating to prevent the pasta from drying out.
More easy pasta dishes:
- Mediterranean Olive Oil Pasta
- Garlic Mushroom Pasta
- Mediterranean Garlic Shrimp Pasta
- Easy Pasta alla Norma
- Pesto Pasta with Tomatoes and Mozzarella
Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
- ¾ pound thin spaghetti
- Kosher salt
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 8 garlic cloves thinly sliced
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes more to your liking
- ⅓ cup grated parmesan more to your liking
- chopped parsley for garnish
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and salt the water well (about 2 tablespoons of kosher salt). Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions until just al dante or a little before (mine took about 9 minutes). Before you drain the pasta, make sure to reserve about 1 ½ cups of the pasta cook water.
- Meanwhile, 4 minutes after you add the pasta to the boiling water, warm the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, tossing regularly until the garlic is just turning golden brown (manage the heat well so that the garlic does not overcook). Add the red pepper flakes and toss for 30 seconds or so. If the pasta is not ready, move the oil off the heat for now.
- Carefully ladle the reserved pasta cooking water in the pan. Bring to a simmer until the liquid reduces by about ⅓.
- Add the cooked pasta and toss around for a couple of minutes. Turn the heat off and add the parmesan and parsley. Toss to combine.
- Allow the pasta a couple more minutes to rest and absorb the sauce. Serve with more Parmesan and red pepper flakes to the side.
- Use quality extra virgin olive oil as it is a main ingredient in making the sauce. You can browse my favorite olive oils. Our Italian Nocellara EVOO is a logical choice here, but if you like something with a more robust peppery finish, try our Greek Early Harvest or Spanish Hojiblanca EVOO.
- Allow the pasta a couple minutes in the sauce before serving. It needs to absorb the flavors.
- If you're following a strict Mediterranean diet, use whole wheat pasta.
- Leftovers: It's best to enjoy this spaghetti recipe fresh, but if you have leftovers, store them in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- Visit Our Shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients.