Spaghetti Aglio E Olio is a pasta dish with fresh garlic, red chili flakes, and olive oil. There is no cream, butter or cheese in the dish, making it a healthy alternative to heavier pasta dishes. It has Italian roots, with an unclear origin. Some suggest Naples, others Abruzzo.
The Pasta Water Method
The beauty of this dish is the simplicity of it. The method, however, takes a little practice. The starchy pasta water and the olive oil emulsifies as you cook the pasta in the skillet, and clings to the pasta like a light sauce. You constantly move the pasta around with a tongs to agitate the pasta in the pan and create that silky texture.
Two Common Mistakes to Avoid
- Overcooking the pasta. There’s no need to boil the pasta for longer than six, or seven minutes. The pasta will finish cooking in the skillet, so cooking it al dente is essential.
- Adding too much water to the pot. We need the starches to create this delicious sauce, and there needs to be just enough water for it to work.
With this simple method, you can have delicious, restaurant-quality Spaghetti Aglio E Olio in just ten minutes.
8 ounces spaghetti
4 tablespoons olive oil
3-5 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1-2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
This is the kind of recipe where mise en place is essential. Having each ingredient prepped, measured and chopped before you begin cooking will help make things come together quickly. This dish is all about timing.
- Bring the water to a boil in a large pot, salting the water generously.
- Add the spaghetti to the pot and cook al dente, around 6-7 minutes.
- Once the pasta is a minute away from cooking, add the olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and let them become fragrant for 2 minutes.
- Instead, use tongs to grab the spaghetti in bunches, and add it to the skillet with the oil, garlic, and chilis. The pasta water will mix with the oil and will help emulsify into a luxurious kind of sauce.
- Once you’ve added all the spaghetti, vigorously agitate the pasta in the pan using the tongs or flipping the spaghetti repeatedly in the pan. This action is key for delicious spaghetti aglio e olio.
- If the pasta is too dry, use a ladle or a measuring cup to add some of the reserved starchy pasta water. Add about a ½ cup at a time.
- Add the fresh parsley and mix into the spaghetti.
- Use a tongs to twist the spaghetti into a nest in the center of the plate, and garnish with a sprig of pasta. Enjoy!