Spaghetti Aglio e Olio (Pasta With Garlic and Oil)

There’s a reason this classic Italian spaghetti has stood the test of time. Built on only 4 main ingredients with garlic and chile-infused olive oil, aglio e olio is quick and easy.

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio (Pasta With Garlic and Oil) Topped with Herbs and Parmesan

Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

If ever there was a pantry pasta, this is it. A humble Italian recipe, aglio e olio is primarily made with four easily accessible, shelf-staple ingredients: pasta, olive oil, garlic, and chiles. It’s just the dish to lean on when someone cries “there’s no food in the house!” 

That’s when you swoop in and make magic with this winning combination—one that is far more than the sum of its parts. 

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio (Pasta With Garlic and Oil) Topped with Parsley and Parmesan

Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

What Is Aglio e Olio?

Aglio e olio translates literally to garlic and olive oil, the essential ingredients in the recipe. It’s a dish with apparent roots in Naples, Italy, but can be found on dinner plates all over the country. It’s uncommonly tasty and satisfying, thanks to the pronounced but well-balanced flavors of garlic and chiles. 

Tips for Exceptional Aglio e Olio

Because the dish has so few ingredients, its success rests in the details. Don’t worry, it’s not complicated. You just need to keep a few things in mind to get it right. 

  1. Salt the pasta water generously. That way, each strand of spaghetti will be flavorful even before you hit it with garlic and chiles. Plus, the pasta cooking water is an essential part of the sauce.
  2. Don’t brown the garlic. Watch the heat—you want the garlic to bloom with flavor without any browning, which can make it bitter.
  3. Undercook the spaghetti just a bit. You’ll finish the cooking process in the sauce, so be sure to drain the pasta when it’s just shy of al dente. It should have a pronounced bite to it without being crunchy. 
  4. Use good olive oil. Skip oils labeled “light” or “pure.” The only thing light about these varieties is their flavor and nutritional value. Go for extra-virgin olive oil every time. 
  5. Refresh your spice drawer. If the red chile flakes have been in your pantry for more than a year, they’ll likely lack flavor and heat. Pepper flakes aren’t very expensive as far as spices go and this is a good time to replace them.
Bowl of Spaghetti Aglio e Olio (Pasta With Garlic and Oil) Topped with Herbs and Parmesan Next to Another Bowl with More Spaghetti

Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

Simple Recipe Variations

Consider this recipe a framework that you can build on depending on your mood. You can bump up (or down) the garlic or chiles, experiment with different types of pasta, or try any of the suggested riffs below: 

  • Squeeze half a lemon over the spaghetti when you add the salt and Parmesan. 
  • Add one (or a few) oil-packed anchovy filets to the olive oil when you add the garlic and chiles. Use the back of a fork to mash the tiny fish into a purée as it heats. 
  • Add a few cans of chopped, drained clams when you add the pasta water. 
  • Toss in a big handful of baby arugula while the spaghetti is still piping hot. Stir to wilt. 
  • Pile your favorite sautéed shrimp on top of the spaghetti before you set it on the table. 
  • Sauté small broccoli florets in olive oil and stir into the spaghetti.
  • Crumble cooked, chopped pancetta or bacon over the top along with the parsley.

How to Store and Reheat

This spaghetti will still be tasty a day or 2 after it’s made. Store in a covered container in the fridge. To reheat, lightly coat a skillet with olive oil and add the spaghetti and a tablespoon or 2 of water. Turn the spaghetti in the pan until warm. Taste and add more Parmesan as needed. 

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio (Pasta With Garlic and Oil) on a Fork and in a Bowl

Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

More Pantry Pastas

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio (Pasta With Garlic and Oil)

Prep Time 6 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 21 mins
Servings 4 to 5 servings


  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for the pasta water

  • 1 pound dried spaghetti

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 4 large cloves garlic, peeled and very thinly sliced

  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more to pass at the table

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley (optional)


  1. Cook the pasta:

    Fill a large, heavy pot with water and add enough salt that it tastes like the sea (2 tablespoons or so). Bring to a boil. 

    Add the spaghetti and cook until just shy of al dente. You want it ever-so-slightly undercooked. Scoop 1 cup of pasta water out of the pot before draining the spaghetti into a colander.

    Spaghetti in a Pot of Hot Water for Aglio e Olio Recipe

    Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

  2. Make the sauce:

    Return the pot to the stove and set over medium heat. Add the olive oil and allow it to heat up enough that it sizzles gently when you add a sliver of garlic. 

    Add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté, stirring constantly, until the garlic turns slightly golden (but don’t let it brown), about 2 minutes.

    Olive Oil, Garlic, and Pepper Flakes Sizzling in a Pot for Spaghetti Aglio e Olio Recipe

    Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

  3. Toss the pasta:

    Add the reserved 1 cup of pasta cooking water to the pot and adjust the heat so that the liquid simmers. Add the pasta and cook, stirring regularly with tongs. You want the heat high enough that you hear the sizzle of the liquid. 

    After a few minutes, when the pasta has absorbed nearly all of the liquid, remove the pot from heat. Add 1 teaspoon salt and the Parmesan and stir well. Taste and add more salt, if needed. 

    Transfer to a serving bowl (or serve in the cooking pot) and scatter the parsley over the top, if using. 

    Serve immediately with more Parmesan to pass at the table. 

    Love the recipe? Leave us stars below!

    Tongs Stirring Spaghetti Aglio e Olio in Pot

    Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

    Spaghetti Aglio e Olio (Pasta With Garlic and Oil) Topped with Herbs and Parmesan

    Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
308 Calories
18g Fat
30g Carbs
8g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 5
Amount per serving
Calories 308
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 18g 23%
Saturated Fat 4g 18%
Cholesterol 9mg 3%
Sodium 437mg 19%
Total Carbohydrate 30g 11%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 8g
Vitamin C 1mg 4%
Calcium 100mg 8%
Iron 1mg 8%
Potassium 113mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.