Spaghetti with Garlic and Oil (Aglio e Olio)

spaghetti with garlic and oil

Spaghetti with garlic and oil is my latest quick-dinner fascination. I can just snag some parsley on the way home from work and the rest of the ingredients are probably already waiting in my pantry. I’m pretty much always in the mood for some pasta, and this dish is a nice change from a run-of-the-mill spaghetti with red sauce. It’s full of flavor thanks to an abundance of garlic and Parmesan, and strikes a gorgeous balance between the cool, freshness of the parsley and the heat of the red pepper flakes. It’s got a lovely deliciousness-to-prep-time ratio, and measuring isn’t really required once you’ve made it a time or two.

Note: Yes, I know. It does look like an unreasonable amount of garlic. But the method of preparation takes a lot of the kick out of it, honestly!

Adapted slightly from Diane Morrisey.

Serves 4

  • 1 lb dry spaghetti (any kind, I usually use whole wheat, but regular or gf varieties also work well)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • about 45g fresh garlic cloves (1/2 – 1 head, depending on size)
  • 1 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (my ideal amount, feel free to adjust to taste)
  • 3.5 oz Parmesan cheese (a big chunk or coarsely shredded is fine)
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley (a small bunch)

Put a large pot of water with 1 tsp of salt on high heat and cover until it comes to a boil. Peel and thinly slice all of the garlic cloves, and wash and trim the stems from the parsley. Chop the leaves. Cut the cheese into chunks, if using a block, and then put it into a blender. Blend until coarsely ground (like the powdery parm you get in a jar, but fresher).

When the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente, according to package directions. Make sure to save 1/3 cup of the pasta water. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large saute pan. Add the sliced garlic and the red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is crispy and golden. Remove from heat and add 1/3 cup of the pasta water along with the parsley.

When the pasta is done, drain into a colander. If your garlic is ready, transfer the pasta to the pan immediately. If it’s not, rinse the pasta with cold water to stop it sticking together. Once the pasta is in the garlic pan, add the ground cheese and use tongs toss everything until well mixed. Serve immediately. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge and microwave to reheat, if desired.


  1. This is a delicious dish and a great change of pace from classic Italian red sauce. It is also reasonably fast to make and is a dish that comes across fancier than it really is. Is “an unreasonable amount of garlic” a thing? I think not!

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