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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.

61 comments on “Aglio Olio Recipe”

  1. I have made this twice. Both times hubby said we should have this more often.
    Love the minimum ingredients and yet so flavorful. Thanks for the great tips!

  2. Toss your ingredients altogether and add some fresh or defrosted broccoli or broccoli & caulifour to the dish. The already seasoned pasta seasons the veggies and is delicious. If the kids don’t like the veggies, simply dish them out first before adding your veggies. For a side salad which compliments the dish, I use lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, black olives, avocado, celery, carrots, and some marinated articokes ( any is optional). I then mix my dressing of any vinegar, oil, salt & pepper to taste, some sugar, & garlic powder. Mix well for a great dinner! My 3 sons in laws gobble this up and want to drink the dressing!

  3. Pingback: Baked chicken breast with aglio olio « floralfoodie

  4. Was just wondering what kind of olive oil do you use? Which brand? I tried cooking various times before I’ve seen your recipe and it tastes flat.


    • When I go overseas to countries such as US and Australia, I will buy their organic brands of olive oil because both quality and prices are usually good. In SG, I usually buy the 2litre bottle of Borges when it is on sale.

  5. Oh, what a great recipe!! Now I know what I will be making soooon. Thanks for sharing Wiffy… have a great weekend! :)

  6. hello wiffy! :) this is the favourite pasta dish of my better half. i wanted to whip up a little sth for her, so i googled the recipe, and was led here. of course, being the total noob that i am, i had to have a few trial runs first. and sure enough, the first attempt was disastrous! the pasta came out too dry, and a little too spicy; the garlic was too crispy (haha sigh). so for dinner the next day, i added more olive oil, used a smaller fire to sauté the garlic, took a smaller pinch of chilli flakes, and added more pasta water for the finish! the outcome was certainly a more palatable dish. i didn’t have any butter to add though. will try that the next time i experiment with this dish. may i clarify if the butter should be of the salted, or unsalted variety? thanks wiffy for the recipe!

  7. Thank you SOO MUCH for the tips! This page and the recipe for mushroom aglio olio have improved my pasta cooking skills to the next level. I can’t express how much your idiot proof tips have worked for me. Hope it works for others as well. Now this dish has become my best dish. (:

  8. Very nice will cook it again n afain

  9. Thanks for your tip on making the perfect aglio olio (especially when dealing with the garlic)…..my attempts often end up with burnt and bitter garlic! LOL!

  10. Hi, I have never tried Aglio Olio until my wife and sons ( their fav pasta) recommended them to me. Have since got hooked to eating them a few times in a week. Have also tried cooking them myself and they taste quite flavorful . It is adviseable to use first cold pressed virgin olive oil as they contain less than 0.5% acidity though, according to the manufacturer. This pasta is also considered healthy and am now a fan .

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