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Aglio Olio Recipe

Aglio Olio Recipe

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Note: First posted in Oct 2007, now updated with new photos and improved recipe.

Aglio e Olio is one of my favourite Italian pasta dishes. Aglio e Olio means “Garlic and Oil” in Italian, and one of the simplest pasta dishes to make. This is one dish which I don’t mind drenched in (good-quality olive) oil. Authentic Aglio e Olio only have a few key ingredients – just garlic, olive oil and pasta, so this is something you can whip up with minimum ingredients.

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While I do enjoy indulging in tomato-based or cream-based pasta now and then, the law of diminishing returns often sets in whenever I eat creamy pastas, where I find my enjoyment diminishing halfway through. But for the light-and-fresh-tasting Aglio e Olio, I find that I can easily finish my plate and still left hungry for just a bit more.

Aglio Olio Recipe

Tips for making perfect aglio olio, every time

  • Pasta should be cooked in salted water which is almost as salty as sea water. The cooked pasta will taste salted and this will reduce or eliminate the need to salt the dish later.
  • Do not add oil when cooking the pasta as doing so will prevent the pasta from absorbing the salt or the overall flavour of the dish.
  • Al dente is an Italian terms referring to perfectly cooked pasta which is firm (but not hard), and with a slight bite. Tip from my Italian friend Isa on how to tell if pasta is “al dente” – “usually the best way is to taste it, but here’s another method for inexperienced people: if you take a spaghetti string that’s cooking and cut it, you should see a white dot in the middle that’s still hard. This means the pasta is not cooked yet. As soon as the white dot disappears (but the middle part is still a bit hard), then the pasta is “al dente” and you can drain it!”
  • Reserve some water from cooking the pasta and add a few tablespoons of it to the final dish. The pasta water not only helps to bind the ingredients, the starch in the pasta water will give the dish a smoother finish.
  • Because you are working with minimum ingredients, the quality of the ingredients will make a huge difference. Go for good quality olive oil and fresh parsley, where possible. Always use fresh garlic instead of pre-chopped bottled garlic.
  • Tip for making perfect golden brown, not burnt garlic: the oil temperature must be just right when you add the garlic, meaning the garlic should sizzle gently in the heated oil when added to the pan (if the oil splatters violently or no reaction when garlic is added, it means the oil is either over-heated or not heated enough).
  • Another tip for making perfect golden brown garlic: monitor the colour of the garlic as they cook in the oil. Turn off the stove once the garlic turns light golden brown. The garlic will continue cooking in the hot oil until it turns a lovely golden brown. If you only turn off the stove when they reached the golden brown hue, they will continue cooking in the hot oil and become burnt. Should the garlic not reach the desired golden brown, simply heat up the oil for another 5-10 seconds, turn off the stove and let the garlic continue browning on its own.
  • This finishing touch may not follow the authentic Italian recipe and is entirely optional, but adding a few small cubes of butter at the end will help give the pasta dish additional flavour and a smooth, velvety finish.
  • Authentic Aglio e Olio is plain. However, it is now popular to add other ingredients like seafood, mushrooms or meat to the basic Aglio e Olio to make a more complete meal.

60 comments on “Aglio Olio Recipe”

  1. Hi! i just tried making this for dinner earlier using bacon and replace the chilli flakes with chilli padi. It taste great! Everyone likes it! And it is very fast and easy to prepare. Thanks! :D

  2. Hi Wiffy
    For the direction below:
    Fill pot with water, and salt

    How much water and salt should I use?


  3. Hi noobcook,

    I was trying to read your recipe. Some of the character did not turn out well..

    For the button mushrooms, what is the amount?

  4. I was searching for an aglio olio recipe and guess who popped up first in food blog search! =) i’m thinking of whipping this up on after a jam-packed Tuesday schedule. Going running + a movie after work, and I still want to whip something up – bonus if it’s healthy – for my partner after (just cos i dont want to eat late night mutton chop and mee goreng again) . this is perfect! some recipes call for anchovies though to supplement the salty flavour; i’m not sure if i should add it in.

  5. I’m cooking this now Wiffyyyyy!!! Steal your recipe xoxo Cross my fingers…

  6. Oh no! I forgot to add salt when boiling the pasta. I must remember it next time.

  7. I’ve tried this recipe this morning! It tasted really delicious – just i didn’t use the butter and substituted parsley with mix herbs since i dont have any parsley haha. Also, I changed the cooking style since I was lazy to wash the pot and pans! :P But it all turned out great :D (just that my level of spiciness was higher than my bf’s, so he couldn’t stand the spiciness) Haha..

  8. I love Aglio Olio. Thanks for the great tips! :)

  9. Mmm this is one of my favorite dish, very simple yet so flavorful…just had some spaghetti for dinner too:)

  10. You let me know I don’t cook authentic enough : ), because I do add butter to it, though occasionally.

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