I cannot think of anything easier than a spaghetti with garlic and olive oil for dinner. Seriously, Aglio Olio is one of my favorite pasta dishes ever. Super favorite if I must emphasize. Aglio Olio is also called Midnight Spaghetti because the chefs make it for a quick meal at midnight when they get home from work.

My first exposure to Aglio E Olio was few years ago at Pasta de Waraku in Singapore and I have since declared that I fall in love with Aglio Olio. I love it so much because of the amount of garlic in it. I know not everyone is into garlic, but when you cook it in the oil, it gets sweeter. Now, I think I mentioned before that I don’t think I can survive on a long-term vegetarian diet. I love eggs, meat and seafood, however, for my Aglio Olio though, I don’t want any of those, I like it plain. Simplicity at its very best is how I describe it.

I’ve tried to made it several times, but it never turned out the way I remember it, until I saw Ina Garten made it in her Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That? cookbook.
I can tell you, this recipe is a keeper for as long as I live now. Thank you Ina. I’ve been craving for Aglio Olio and so delighted that I can make it anytime I want now.

What you will need:
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lb dried spaghetti
  • ⅓ cup good olive oil
  • 8 large garlic cloves, peeled and cut into thin slivers
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (more if you like it spicier)
  • ½ cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 2 Tbsp of Kosher salt (use half of the amount if you use regular salt) and the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package if you like or "undercook" it if you like your pasta to be firm-to-bite (al dente). Set aside 1½ cups of the pasta cooking water before you drain the pasta
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a pot large enough to hold the pasta, such as 12-inch saute pan or a large shallow pot. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until it just begins to turn golden on the edges- don't BURN IT!
  3. Add the red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds more. Carefully add the reserved pasta-cooking water to the garlic and oil and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by about one third
  4. Add the drained pasta to the garlic sauce and toss. Off the heat, add the parsley and Parmesan and toss well. Allow the pasta to rest off the heat for 5 minutes for the sauce to be absorbed. Taste for seasoning and serve warm with extra Parmesan on the side


You can also make your spaghetti Aglio E Olio with some protein, in my case, I used fish that I seasoned with a little salt and pepper, dredged in flour and then pan-fried to get that crispiness. I also included some roasted broccoli & cauliflower (whatever I had left in the fridge) It was one of those days that I wanted something quick yet comforting. Hubby absolutely loves this dish !! :)

Spaghetti Aglio E Olio

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  • Valerio

    Thi recipe is wrong. I’m Italian, this is a tipical dish of southern Italy/Rome and i know it very well. There are several errors in this recipe, but i can’t list them all. So i notice only the two biggest errors:

    1) Here in italy the pasta is cooked always some minutes (approximately 3 minutes) less than what is written on the package and if the pasta has to cook on the pan (we call this technique: “mantecare”) (2 minute for example) we cook it in the pot about 5 minute less than what is written on the package! If you do this you will have the pasta cooked as we like and do here in italy; here in fact we don’t like how do you cook it: “scotta”, but we like as i described you: “al dente”!

    2)This recipe is a southern italy/roman recipe, and in this region of italy we didn’t use “Parmiggiano Reggiano” (parmesan) that is a cheese made in Parma (northern Italy) but we use “Pecorino” (sheep cheese) that is more spicy, according to the flavour of this recipe.

    Excuse me for my piteous english.

  • What To Cook Today Post author

    Hi Valerio, thank you for taking time to give feedback. I know exactly what you are talking about. I traveled to Italy 2 years ago and the chef at the restaurant shared with us about the “al dente” spaghetti. I guess this recipe has been customized by Ina Garten to suit the taste of the local. Parmesan is also a more “common” easily available cheese here, though I know Pecorino is getting more and more common too. Thanks again for your feedback.

  • Ashley

    TOO salty! I made the assumption that you salt the pasta water for this recipe(because I always do that when I make pasta). DONT. It ends up being edible..but entirely too salty. I think it would be better to salt the water,and then cut the additional salt by at least half. Since the cheese itself is salty…
    Also I agree with the other response in that its best to under cook the pasta more,as it sits in the pan it continues to cook. This was how I did it,I undercooked it by about 5 minutes and then finished it in the pan. It gave me perfectly al dente pasta.

    Ina has another recipe for pecorino,parsley,and peppercorn pasta that is very similar but has the pecorino instead of the parm.

    Again al dente is so important for a dish like this..especially because it really is all about the pasta. I cant stand soggy over cooked super starchy pasta.

  • What To Cook Today Post author

    Hi Ashley,

    I used 2 Tbsp of Kosher salt to salt the water. I think I’ve left the important part our “kosher”. Sorry about that. I think I should’ve just mentioned to cook the pasta the way you like it. I don’t like soggy and starchy pasta and noodles too, but I also don’t like it al dente, somewhere it between there is good to me. Thanks for trying and letting me know and I can update the recipe accordingly.

  • Ashley

    I am definitely going to try again,as even though I found it a bit too salty,I really love the ingredients and the ease of the dish. So is kosher salt normally more or less salty than regular salt?Because I used regular salt..maybe thats why? Or it could have been I used too much cheese..I do love parm!LOL!

  • What To Cook Today Post author

    Kosher salt is a larger grain compared to table salt. So the amount of sodium in the Kosher salt per teaspoon may be less because the larger grain means you can’t get as much salt by weight into the teaspoon as you can with table salt. So, I guess that’s probably why some people say Kosher is “less salty” but actually the sodium content between Kosher and table salt are actually pretty close. So, if recipe calls for Kosher salt, I would cut down by about half if using table salt. I hope it make sense.
    I’ve also edited the recipe slightly by cutting out the salt when cooking the garlic.
    I love parm too :) I think the saltiness of the parm cheese may not contribute as much compare to the salt 😀 If you do give it a try again, please let me know how it turns out. I think I’m gonna try again myself too :)