Prawns Aglio e Olio
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Note: This was first posted in Jun 2008, now updated with new photos and improved recipe.
I really love Aglio e Olio, and it is my go-to one-dish pasta dish whenever I am out of ideas of what to cook. While the original and authentic recipe for Aglio e Olio is plain, it is now common to see all types of variations of Aglio e Olio, just like this plate cooked with fresh prawns (or my other plate of scallops Aglio Olio).
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And I think why not, cooking should be improvising and flexible – adding additional ingredients definitely make the usual Aglio e Olio a more complete and interesting meal. Since I have been making Aglio e Olio so frequently at home, we seldom, if not never, order Aglio e Olio outside anymore, mainly because we can make it at a fraction of the cost at home. The money to me, is more well spent paying for fresh, large prawns and perhaps a bottle of fine white wine to go with the pasta. And there is a whole lot more flexibility when cooking this at home to adjust the taste to our own preference (for example, I love XXL prawns and extra heat).
Cooking Aglio e Olio is definitely not difficult, requiring very basic ingredients. Check out my tips for making basic Aglio Olio here. The extra step of boiling the prawn heads and shells will add some umami-ness to the Aglio Olio, but you can skip this step and use pasta water if out of time. Thanks to reader BC for sharing his wonderful tips on Aglio e Olio making.
Yes, if the dish turns out bland, you definitely need to season to taste with salt :)
Now it tastes better. I’ve also put more oil and parsley flakes! Thanks a lot. :)
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woah… that aglio olio looks great! bring on the chili flakes and cheese. :D
Hmm… Where can i find chilli flakes? Cant find it in NTUC..
Hi supernoob, you can buy bottled chilli flakes in NTUC or Cold Storage. A common brand is masterfoods. It’s where all the bottled herbs and spices are kept. Hope you find it.
Hi, I tried this recipe yesteday and I added red peppers and tomatoes to add colour. It turned out fantastic, definitely and amazing recipe!
Thanks ranna, glad to hear you like it! I like the addition of red peppers and tomatoes, sounds colourful and delish!
Hi… i am a noob here… but does anyone know which brand of spaghetti will taste better after cooking?
hi ps, I personally find that most brands is fine and I’m not fussy about it. I personally use the San Remo brand a lot. Just make sure you follow the cooking time written on the package and not over-cook the pasta.
Great post. I would like to share some other tips which I picked up from watching an Italian chef in his kitchen.
I’m not sure if anyone has commented on this but adding oil to the water for boiling the pasta is generally not advised, and also not what the Italians do. It may not be as crucial here since you aren’t dealing with a sauce, but it tends to prevent the pasta from absorbing the flavours of the sauce. And if you are adding oil to prevent the pasta from sticking to each other, you simply have to stir the pasta a bit in the beginning. Also, you can also consider putting enough salt into the boiling water such that it tastes almost like sea water – you don’t have to salt the pasta after this, and is again what the Italians do.
The other thing is I found out that restaurants don’t have the garlic sliced very thinly (emincé) instead of diced simply because it looks better. It actually tastes better because your garlic is more uniformly cooked and the texture works better overall, but I suppose some people prefer their garlic to taste a bit more raw. I personally don’t prefer having the garlic taste raw as I like the garlic to have a bit of sweetness.
Finally, when I do an aglio olio with prawns, I tend to saute the prawns separately because if you do it with the garlic, you risk burning the garlic or having it become slightly bitter (again, a matter of preference). As aglio olio is such a simple dish, I think you need to really nail the few ingredients in it!
One other tip is to add some of the water used to boil the pasta into the pan along with the pasta. The starch in the pasta water helps to give a somewhat creamy or smooth texture to the pasta, and helps get you nearer to the type you get in Italian restaurants. I take the pasta out of the pan only after the pasta water has evaporated – don’t worry about the pasta being overcooked and no longer al dente. If you are really a food nazi, you may even wanna boil the prawn heads in some water to get a seafood broth to add in with the pasta water – this gives your pasta that extra somethin’ somethin’ – this is what many Italian restaurants actually do; they add in seafood stock to give it that umami-ness you never get with home-cooked pasta.
The final tip is to add a knob of butter for maybe a minute or two before you take the pasta out of the pan. Do remember to adjust the amount of olive oil and salt (if you use salted butter) if you decide to do this, as you don’t want your pasta to be too oily or too salty. I got this tip from the restaurant I used to work at. I’m not sure if this is what the Italians do though.
Hope this helps!
Hi BC – wow, really love the tips! thanks so much for your detailed explanation and sharing, I’ve read it all and really appreciate it. shall attempt my aglio oilo with prawns again :)
Thanks for this recipe. Made this with Linguine last night for my son. I made it without the prawns and it was still mega yummy….definitely one more to add to my list.
Also I added a teeny tiny bit of a chicken stock while cooking the garlic just for extra flavour. (A trick I learnt from the Jamie Oliver recipes…)