This spaghetti all’aglio e olio recipe is classic Italian simplicity and frugality. Or so says its author. We’re not arguing. The pasta cooking water is the secret ingredient as it lends a unique flavor to the dish that’s a result of the salt and starch content. In tandem with the garlic, your best EVOO, and cheese, it is most definitely greater than the sum of its parts.–Renee Schettler Rossi

A bowl of spaghetti all'Aglio e Olio topped with olive oil and flakes of Parmesan cheese.

Spaghetti all’Aglio e Olio

5 / 5 votes
Spaghetti all’aglio e olio–spaghetti with garlic, olive oil, pepper flakes, and cheese–is a simple authentic Italian classic that makes an ideal weeknight supper.
David Leite
Servings4 to 6 servings
Calories668 kcal
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time20 minutes


  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • About 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or more to taste
  • 6 to 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or finely chopped
  • 1/2 to 1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste, plus more for the pasta water
  • Finely shaved or grated Parmesan cheese, for serving


  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. 
  • Add the spaghetti and cook until slightly tender and still firm to the bite, 8 to 10 minutes. 
  • Drain the spaghetti and reserve about 1/4 cup cooking water.
  • Return the pot to medium heat and pour in the oil. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, reduce the heat, and immediately add the drained spaghetti and the reserved cooking water. Toss and stir so that the oil and water emulsify. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the Parmesan. 
  • Serve the spaghetti all’aglio e olio immediately.
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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 668 kcalCarbohydrates: 86 gProtein: 15 gFat: 29 gSaturated Fat: 4 gMonounsaturated Fat: 20 gSodium: 16 mgFiber: 4 gSugar: 3 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2013 Women for Women International. Photo © 2013 Philip Webb. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This recipe was a real surprise. If you look at the list of ingredients, you might suspect a simple, possibly even bland, weeknight pasta. However, the process of vigorously stirring the pasta water with the warm garlic- and pepper-infused oil resulted in a much more complex dish. The “sauce” was emulsified to the point of almost becoming creamy and was spicy without being painful. It came together in minutes, was sourced from my pantry, and was absolutely delicious.

Spaghetti all’aglio e olio is one of my all-time favorite dishes. First, because of the taste, of course. But also because it’s so easy and quick to make. I always have the ingredients on hand and it’s done in a snap.

I use a buttery, not too bitter, olive oil as that works best for me. I used maybe 1/3 to 1/2 cup oil plus 1/4 cup cooking water.

Great flavors! This spaghetti all’aglio e olio instantly transported me to my travels throughout Italy. This classic dish pairs perfectly with just about anything edible.

I used 1/2 cup olive oil, added a dash freshly ground black pepper, and topped the dish with fresh basil. Serve as a main or a side dish and you will be handsomely rewarded with compliments from your diners. An absolute hit and so simple to assemble.

Just a few simple ingredients and a little time and you’ve got a satisfying and spicy main dish ready for the table.

I used 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil and that was plenty. I added a shade more than 1/4 cup pasta cooking water, and putting it all in at once was fine. The oil and water emulsified and coated the spaghetti.

While the pasta is cooking, put together a salad and warm some bread to round things out. Garlic lovers, this was excellent accompanied by garlic cheese bread with chives.

There are several reasons why this is a GREAT recipe. First, if you can boil water, you can make this dish. Next, it takes no more than a few minutes from beginning to end, and there is very little cleanup. And I really love spaghetti and this is by far the easiest way to prepare it. I used exactly half the ingredients, except I did use the full 1/4 cup water. Even 8 ounces cooked spaghetti is quite a lot. Add a little garlic bread, a bit of wine, and a nice dessert, and you have the perfect dinner for two. Throw in a linen tablecloth and perhaps a candle and your effort (however small) will not be forgotten.

If you have the time to boil water, you have enough time to make this recipe.

This recipe can be scaled up or down very easily, to feed however many people are going to pull a chair up to your table. I divided everything in half to make dinner for the two of us. I used 1/4 cup olive oil for 1/2 pound pasta, and it worked very well. I would suggest adding spoonfuls of pasta cooking water until you get the consistency that you like. I ended up adding 3 to 4 tablespoons water. We had extremely fresh—as in recently had been made—red pepper flakes. They were very spicy, which meant that the pasta was very spicy. I found that I sprinkled on quite a bit of grated Parmesan as I was eating this dish. Now, of course, I may have wanted to use all that Parm anyway, but in this case, it did seem to temper the heat from the pepper flakes.

While you wait for the water to boil and the pasta to cook, you can chop the garlic, add the pepper flakes to it, and also make a salad. (A mixed green salad went beautifully with this, as did a Caprese salad.)

What also made the dish so delightful was the Italian red wine that we served with it. A Lacrima di Morro d’Alba DOC. Italian wines are usually made to accompany food, instead of being a stand-alone wine. In this case, the wine and the pasta made each other better than either was standing alone.

This spaghetti all’aglio e olio was a great reminder. It’s very close to the spaghetti in garlic oil I routinely make. That said, my husband loved the extra kick added with the red pepper flakes. (I may have been a little heavy handed there.)

As suggested, I did use less oil rather than more, which was good because the oil I had was quite strong in flavor. The starchy cooking liquid did its trick of thickening and clinging. It really is the “secret.” Simple, quick, basic, classic.

This is one of my favorite ways to eat pasta, especially in warmer weather. I used quinoa pasta instead of regular pasta.

This recipe is simple perfection and one that needs to be in your repertoire for an easy meal. In the time it takes to cook a package of pasta, the sauce is ready to be tossed into a dish that will transport you to Italy.

The heat of the dish is easily controllable by adjusting the amount of red pepper flakes. I like to add a bit of chopped parsley for a bit of color. Red, green, and white, just like the Italian flag.

I love this recipe! It’s a great last-minute meal and the ingredients are always in my kitchen. Quick, easy, and simple. Sometimes it’s the marriage of just a few flavors that make a successful recipe. And it required only one pot!

I found the amount of olive oil to be plenty. After cooking and draining the pasta, I poured the oil into the pan and set the heat to medium-high. I tossed in the garlic and pepper flakes and it took no time to slightly scorch the garlic! My bad, so keep on eye on the heat. In went the pasta and I stirred it together. The red pepper flakes added a nice kick and the Parmesan topped it off.

Next time, I might just add a few shrimp and a few ribbons of fresh basil.

This spaghetti supper was easy to put together and I loved that it was all one pot.

One caveat. Depending on the heat in your red pepper flakes, you can either have a nice warm spicy experience or blow your hair off. We lost some hair. Next time I will adjust that 1 1/2 teaspoons to 1/2 teaspoons. We live in Tabasco country so our red pepper flakes are a bit hot. Otherwise, it was a real winner.

We will make it again and next time we will use our recipe from this site for the homemade pasta that we tested a while back!

This was a delicious and quick late-night supper for me and my 15-year-old taster. I had it on the table in 15 minutes flat and she devoured it in even less time.

Because it was just the 2 of us this evening, I halved the ingredients, using 3/8 cup oil, which seemed like the right amount to us. Three large garlic cloves mashed with 1/2 teaspoon of salt yielded about 2 1/2 teaspoons and should protect me and the kid from vampires for some time. The red pepper flakes aren’t overpowering; they add just the right amount of heat.

Do not forget to reserve some pasta cooking water—I always do this with any sauced pasta dish—as it helps to thicken the sauce a little and just gives it that something extra. Definitely use the full 1/4 cup reserved water and definitely add it all at once. Creating the emulsion is the trick to the recipe, and that requires water. The second time we made the recipe, I forgot to set aside enough water and the dish definitely suffered.

This dish will definitely enter the dinner rotation.

I was impressed by the simplicity of this dish and its ease of preparation. It’s light, full of flavor, and takes just minutes to prepare; a perfect summer meal.

As with any simple dish containing few ingredients, the best quality ingredients are a must. Freshly grated Parmesan is far superior to the pre-grated variety and it adds a salty flavor as well as a nice texture to the dish. I added 2 tablespoons water to the garlic and olive oil mixture before adding the pasta. I felt that it was easier to emulsify the water and oil that way.

A bitter leaf salad is the perfect accompaniment to this dish. However, if you choose to serve the pasta with another side dish, I might suggest garnishing the pasta with a handful of freshly chopped Italian parsley for a slightly bitter twist.

This is the most basic of Italian pasta recipes. I have always made it with wheat flour pasta, but I like that wheat-free pasta, such as quinoa or rice spaghetti, could be used for a healthier choice.

I suggest “sweating” the garlic for a minute or two in the oil before adding the pasta to the dish. I would also add 2 tablespoons of the pasta water to keep the garlic from browning. Slicing the garlic, rather than chopping it, will make it less likely to overcook while still giving the dish the right amount of garlic flavor.

A 1/2 cup of olive oil is sufficient to coat a pound of spaghetti, although an extra drizzle is a nice finish to the plated dish.

This is very nice for a quick and easy lunch.

I used angel hair pasta because that is all I buy. I ended up with nine 1-cup servings (5 ounces each).

I started off with 1/2 cup olive oil and 7 cloves of garlic. After I had added all the ingredients, using the full 1/4 cup of pasta water, it seemed a little dry. I added another 1/4 cup olive oil and it was just right. I believe you would find this recipe in a restaurant using a full 1 cup olive oil but I feel it would be just too much. Use a high quality olive oil as this is where a lot of your flavor comes from.

Use the full 8 cloves of garlic. Using roasted garlic cloves would make this even better with another layer of flavor.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    I blame my recent weight gain on my love for trying LC recipes…but with recipes like this, at least my bank account isn’t suffering too! Cheap, simple, and astoundingly delicious.

    1. Nods. We like to keep an eye on our pocketbook, Vera. More than the scale, obviously! Many kind thanks for taking the time to let us know you like this as much as we do.

  2. This is one of those dishes that pulls at the heartstrings. My grandmother made this for me when I would visit. As a kid, I would say the name of the dish out loud as I ate it. Admit it, it’s fun to say. It’s even more fun with a mouth full of noodles.

  3. 5 stars
    This has been my husband’s favorite pasta dish (and quick-fix) since we lived in Italy and you just reminded me that it has been too long since he made it for us. It really is perfect.