With just five ingredients Pasta Aglio e Olio is a shining star in the simple pasta realm. Each garlic and parmesan packed bite is a step closer to aldente pasta heaven!
When it comes to summer pasta, it’s all about keeping things light and simple. And in my opinion, there is no better archetype for that than Pasta Aglio e Olio. Humble in its ingredients list and preparation, this classic Italian pasta is made with just garlic, aldente noodles and plenty of fruity olive oil. Our version is only slightly gussied up with an addition of grated parmesan cheese and fresh baby spinach for a a veggie hit and a bit of color. Serve with a giant green salad, some crusty garlic bread and call it dinner.
Ingredients in Pasta Aglio e Olio
Olive oil. This is an instance where you want to use your favorite olive oil. Much of the flavor comes from this ingredient so it’s not a bad idea to use something flavorful.
Garlic. So much garlic. Essentially this is a garlic and olive oil pasta so we aren’t skimping on it.
Red pepper flakes. We’re big on spice so I use a heavy hand. Start with a pinch and then build up based on your preference.
Spaghetti. Traditionally Pasta Aglio e Olio is made with spaghetti but I would love it with angel hair (such an underrated pasta see here and here), linguine or bucatini.
Parmigiano-Reggiano. Again because there are very little ingredients you want to use the good stuff. Splurge on some good parmigiano reggiano.
Pasta water. Essential in creating a sauce-like consistency, this starchy, salty ingredient is not to be missed.
Spinach. I will add a handful or two to just about any pasta or chicken dish on the planet. Not only does it sneak a morsel of veggies into my kids’ subpar veggie diet but it’s pretty too.
Let’s makee Pasta Aglio e Olio
Boil water. This is a tip I learned a few years back from a TV chef I can’t remember. If you think you are going to need pasta water later in the cooking process don’t feel the need to fill your pasta pot aggressively with water. The less water you have, the starchier and more flavorful it will be after the cooking process.
Cook the garlic. While you bring the water to a boil GENTLY cook the garlic. I gently sweat the garlic with olive oil over a very low heat until it’s softened and fragrant before pulling it off the stove completely. Add the salt and red pepper flakes (if using red pepper flakes). Give it a stir.
Boil the pasta. Normally I advice you to avoid dropping pasta in boiling water before you finish cooking the sauce but since the only cooking we need to do is sweat the garlic, you can simply drop the pasta in the boiling water when it comes to a boil. Use tongs to swish the pasta around to prevent the strands from sticking together. Cook until the pasta is aldente.
Toss. Use tongs to transfer the pasta to the olive oil and garlic. Toss the noodles in the oil and garlic. Add the parmesan cheese and remaining salt and black pepper. toss until coated. Add the spinach and 3/4 cup starchy pasta water. Toss until the cheese has melted.
Done. Season with salt and pepper.
Is Pasta Aglio e Olio good leftover?
How do you say Pasta Aglio e Olio?
Okay, I always struggled with this one and if you’re going to make it you should know how to say it. Pasta AHL-yoh eh OHL-yoh.
- Instead of spinach add sauteed kale (you’ll have to saute it prior)
- If you want a herb-forward Pasta Aglio e Olio, it would be delicious to add a ton of chopped parsley, basil and even dill.
- Add diced shallot for extra onion flavor.
- Pecorino instead of parmesan will work.
Tips and Tricks for Recipe Success
- whatever you do, DON’T burn the garlic! It will only take a few minutes to cook even at a very low heat and if it burns, you have to start over.
- save that pasta water, you WILL need it.
- don’t overcook the pasta, you want it aldente. I’ll even pull it out a minute shy of aldente
- 1 lb spaghetti
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 head garlic, skins removed and cloves finely minced
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 3/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup cup water
- 2 cups baby spinach
- 1 Large skillet
- Fill a large pot 3/4 full with water. Bring to a boil. When the water comes to boil, season well with salt. It should taste as salty as the sea. Drop the pasta in the water. Use the tongs to make sure the pasta does not stick together. Cook the pasta just until aldente.
- While you bring the water to a boil heat a large skillet with high sides to a medium-low heat. Add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and red pepper flakes if using. Gently sweat the garlic over the medium low heat until soft and fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. If at any point the garlic starts to brown turn the heat down. Once the garlic is fragrant, add 1/2 teaspoon salt and give it a stir. Remove from the heat.
- When the pasta is done cooking, use tongs to transfer the pasta to the olive oil and garlic. Toss the noodles in the oil and garlic. Add the parmesan cheese, remaining salt and black pepper. Toss until coated. Add the spinach and 1/2 cup starchy pasta water. Toss until the cheese has melted and spinach has wilted. If needed, add more pasta water.
- Done. Season with salt and pepper.