Try this spaghetti aglio e olio recipe once, and you'll make it over and over. It uses simple ingredients, it cooks in 20 minutes, and it's totally delicious.
Spaghetti aglio e olio translates to “spaghetti with garlic and oil.” The traditional dish contains little more than these ingredients. It might be finished with a sprinkle of parsley or a pinch of red pepper flakes, but even these are optional. In its simplest form, this classic Italian pasta features spaghetti, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper.
But if you’ve ever tried it, you know that spaghetti aglio e olio is far more than the sum of its parts. The garlic infuses the oil with rich, nutty flavor, and salty, starchy pasta cooking water transforms it into a deeply flavorful sauce. Add perfect al dente pasta to the mix, and it’s absolute heaven.
Spaghetti aglio e olio has been my go-to order at Italian restaurants for years, but recently, it’s become one of my favorite dishes to make at home. It comes together in just 20 minutes, it uses a handful of pantry ingredients, and it’s simply delicious. If you have pasta, garlic, and olive oil in your kitchen, try it tonight! If you’re anything like me, you’ll make it again the next night, and again the next. 🙂 Yep, it’s that good.
Spaghetti Aglio e Olio Recipe Ingredients
Of course, my spaghetti aglio e olio recipe includes a few fresh twists. I start with these traditional ingredients:
- Spaghetti: If you don’t have spaghetti on hand, use whatever pasta you do have. I recommend choosing a long pasta like fettuccine, linguine, or bucatini, but if short-cut pasta is what’s in your kitchen, it’ll still come out delicious.
- Olive oil: Use the best one you have.
- Garlic: The star ingredient! Don’t skimp on it – it’s essential for infusing the pasta with rich, nutty flavor.
- Red pepper flakes: For heat! If you’re sensitive to spice, feel free to skip them, or start with just 1/4 teaspoon. If you want your pasta to have more of a kick, add up to 1/2 teaspoon.
- Parsley: Sprinkle it over the pasta for a lovely fresh finish.
Then, I add these unconventional (but tasty!) ingredients:
- Lemon: It may not be totally authentic, but if you ask me, a little lemon never hurt anything. I use both lemon juice and zest to fill this pasta with bright flavor.
- Kale: If you ask me, pasta + greens are a match made in heaven. Feel free to skip the kale if you prefer, or use different greens, such as spinach or Swiss chard, if you don’t have any kale on hand.
- Parmesan cheese: Aglio e olio purists will tell you never to serve it with cheese, but I think a shower of freshly grated Parmesan or vegan Parmesan is a welcome touch. Its nutty taste pairs perfectly with the savory garlic.
(See the full measurements at the bottom of this post!)
How to Make Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
This simple pasta comes together in just 20 minutes! Follow these steps to make it (+ find the full recipe below!):
- First, cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve some of the starchy pasta water before you drain it!
- Next, toast the garlic and red pepper flakes. Heat the oil in a large skillet and add the garlic slices and red pepper flakes. Cook until the garlic is fragrant and lightly browned around the edges.
- Then, add the kale. Toss it with the garlic oil and cook until it wilts.
- Finally, stir in the pasta, along with the lemon juice and zest and a splash of the reserved pasta water. Toss to combine, adding more pasta water, as needed, to create a light sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste. That’s it!
Garnish the pasta aglio e olio with parsley and Parmesan cheese, if desired. Enjoy it on its own, or serve it with a salad like my Caesar salad, Caprese salad, or citrus salad. It would also be delicious with roasted broccoli or cauliflower and homemade focaccia or no-knead bread for sopping up any leftover oil. Buon appetito!
More Favorite Pasta Recipes
If you love this spaghetti aglio e olio recipe, try one of these easy pasta recipes next:
- Pesto Pasta
- Fettuccine Alfredo
- Easy Baked Ziti
- Linguine with Lemon and Tomatoes
- Creamy Pasta Pomodoro
- Homemade Mac and Cheese
Then, find 25 more favorite pastas here!
Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
- 12 ounces spaghetti
- ½ to 1 cup pasta water
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 large bunch lacinato kale, stemmed and chopped
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- ⅓ cup chopped parsley
- Parmesan or Vegan Parmesan, for serving
- Prepare the pasta according to the package directions, in a pot of salted boiling water, until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water before draining the pasta.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the garlic is lightly browned around the edges. Add the kale, salt, and several grinds of pepper and cook, tossing with tongs, until the kale is wilted, up to 1 minute.
- Add the spaghetti and toss to combine. Add ½ cup pasta water, lemon juice, lemon zest, and toss. If the pasta is seeming too dry, add the remaining ½ cup pasta water to create a light sauce.
- Season to taste. Garnish with parsley and serve with Parmesan or vegan Parmesan.