Cooking Like an Italian: Spaghetti Aglio E Olio Original Recipe and Delicious Variations

by Kremy

When it comes to classic Italian pasta recipes, spaghetti aglio e olio is a very popular dish. This is a quick and tasty first course that is easy to prepare and allows a few variations. Usually you only need 4 simple ingredients, like spaghetti, garlic, olive oil and red pepper flakes. In addition, the classic among pasta dishes is on almost all menus in Italian restaurants. So if you want to prepare the pasta dish yourself, here are the right recipe ideas for every taste.

How to Make the Perfect Spaghetti Aglio E Olio

classic dish made in italy with spaghetti and garlic in olive oil

If you have invited guests but you are short on cooking time, this dish would be the right choice. You don’t have to do without the taste and the Mediterranean aromas. Nutritious, easy to prepare and versatile, such a first course can be delicious even with very few ingredients. This recipe also has the great advantage that the sauce is ready in no time.

Sauté chopped garlic with chillies in a pan


For the perfect spaghetti with garlic and oil, simply fry the garlic in the oil for a few moments. This intensifies its aroma and gives the pasta the necessary taste. However, be careful not to burn the garlic. Each chef decides how to cut this ingredient to brown it. You can chop or slice it.

halved garlic cloves for spaghetti aglio e olio recipe

On the other hand, if you like the taste but don’t want to chew, you can also put in halved cloves of garlic, brown well and then remove before adding the spaghetti to the pan. For the lovers of spicy food, there are also chopped chili peppers or flakes, which make the sauce even tastier. Once the spaghetti is ready, it is poured directly into the pan and, together with a ladleful of cooking water, mixed with the sauce which, thanks to the starch, helps give the dish a light creaminess.

Tips for Cooking This Famous Italian Dish

spaghetti aglio olio served in italian style

While Italians typically use chopped fresh red chili peppers (peperoncini) in this dish, finding such can be a bit more difficult elsewhere in the world. Therefore, you can also use a generous sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes from your pantry. The key to a gorgeous, shiny, non-greasy sauce is to create an emulsion with the garlic oil and magical starchy pasta water.

Pour starchy pasta water into the pan

All you have to do is add the pasta and 1/2 cup of hot, starchy water directly to the pan with garlic oil a minute before the spaghetti are done cooking. Then, as you toss them, all that heat and starch helps the garlic oil emulsify into a nice glossy sauce, while the pasta soaks up extra flavors after cooking. So grab some garlic and olive oil and master this classic pasta dish.

Ingredients for Easy Spaghetti Aglio E Olio Recipe

Add olive oil according to the classic spaghetti aglio e olio recipe

Pasta: spaghetti or linguine, fettuccine, or any other pasta shape you prefer.

Olive Oil: Since olive oil is the main ingredient in this sauce, it’s really recommended to use the highest quality extra virgin olive oil you can find. This key ingredient will definitely make a difference.

Garlic: If you want a lot of garlic in your pasta dishes, you can use 10 to 12 cloves of garlic. However, the dish is traditionally prepared with around 4-8 cloves.

Red Pepper Flakes: Traditional spaghetti aglio e olio is made with fresh peperoncini (hot red chili peppers) common throughout Italy. However, as they are harder to find in other countries, as mentioned earlier, you can use dried flakes and let them sauté in olive oil to bring out their best flavor.

Optional Sides: The two most popular toppings for this classic Italian dish are finely chopped fresh parsley and/or freshly grated parmesan. Feel free to add both, but they’re completely optional.

Pasta dish with tomatoes and parmesan spaghetti aglio e olio recipe variations


  • Cook the spaghetti in a generously salted pot of boiling water until al dente.
  • Meanwhile, about 3 minutes after adding the pasta to the boiling water, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add the sliced garlic and crushed red pepper flakes and saute 3 to 5 minutes or until garlic is lightly golden.
  • Use tongs to add the pasta to the skillet, along with 1/2 cup of hot starchy pasta water.
  • Turn the spaghetti continuously until they are evenly coated with the sauce. If the sauce looks a little too dry, add another 1/4 cup of the starchy pasta water.
  • Give the pasta a quick flavor and add an extra pinch of salt and/or crushed red pepper flakes if needed.
  • Serve immediately while the dish is nice and hot, garnished with toppings to go with it.

A few important tips: Have all your ingredients ready. Things move pretty quickly once pasta starts to cook. Therefore, you could have all your ingredients laid out, chopped up and ready to go. It is important that the garlic does not burn. If it turns slightly golden before pasta is cooked, simply remove the pan from the heat until it’s time to add it. Also, don’t forget to add salt to the pasta water.

Possible Variations of Spaghetti Aglio E Olio Recipe

Prepare spaghetti aglio olio with prawns for more protein

There are all sorts of variations and additions to this recipe. For example, do not hesitate to combine spaghetti aglio e olio with prawns or with anchovies. This is y another popular option in Italy. Finely chop a few anchovies and sauté them in the garlic sauce to give the dish an extra salty and fishy flavor.

spaghetti aglio e olio with spicy chili flakes and parsley

Basil is also great for this. What’s more, this pasta dish is also delicious if you sprinkle chopped fresh basil instead of parsley. Also add additional crushed red pepper flakes. If you want your pasta to have more vegetables, you can make your spaghetti aglio e olio with tomatoes.

Combine seafood with pasta quick recipe ideas to cook at home

If thinly sliced garlic isn’t your thing, feel free to mince or press it. You can also just crush and sauté the whole garlic cloves to infuse the olive oil, then remove and discard the cloves before adding the pasta to the sauce. Add more protein by adding other seafood, chicken, ham, ground beef or salami, for example. You can also add cooked veggies you love like broccoli, mushrooms, peppers, onions, etc. to the dish.




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