Pasta aglio olio is an Italian classic first course that everyone needs to try at least once in their lifetime. It's so simple and yet so fulfilling and delicious. It brings to together the main elements of Italian cuisine: simplicity, creativity and comfort. No one can resist this.
Today was one of those days when after a long day of work I just felt like some quick take out + Netflix. But since Louise and I pledge to not eat out in 2020 (mainly to save money and be healthier), we decided to cook the simplest meal of all. Pasta aglio olio.
But don't be fooled. While quick and simple, this staple Italian dish is full of flavour and a sure hit, whether you want to seduce Scarlett Johansson, or please your hungry girlfriend (or boyfriend).
Italian pasta: spaghetti or linguine are the best for this dish. Exclusively made with hard wheat flour, preferably imported from Italy.
Garlic: that is "aglio" in Italian.
Extra virgin olive oil: that is "olio" in Italian. You are going to need some good quality one as this is the main ingredient of this dish. No other oil will work!
Red hot chili peppers: that is "peperoncino" in Italian. Here you can use either fresh red chilis or you can use chili flakes like we do.
Flat leaves parsley: this is optional but we strongly recommend it. Not everyone in Italy puts parsley in their pasta aglio e olio.
Coarse sea salt: you'll need this to salt the pasta cooking water. As an Italian I believe that is important to have good quality coarse sea salt or else your pasta won't taste as good.
📋 Recipe Card
Pasta aglio olio and peperoncino recipe
- 300 grams (10.6 oz) spaghetti (or bavette or linguine)
- 3 cloves (3 cloves) garlic
- ½ to 1 tbsp (½ to 1 tbsp) chili flakes
- 60-100 ml (½ cup) olive oil, extra virgin
- 2 handfuls (2 handfuls) flat-leaf parsley finely chopped
- 2 tbsp (2 tbsp) coarse sea salt
- Start by finely chopping the parsley and the garlic.
- In a large pot, bring 3 to 4 litres (1 gallon) of water to boil. Then add the coarse sea salt.
- Cook the pasta in the boiling water for the time that's on the package minus 1 minute.
- While the pasta cooks, add the olive oil to a non stick or stainless steel pan.
- When the oil is warm, add the finely chopped garlic. Let fry in the oil for about 1 minute. Make sure your heat is on low and the oil doesn't get too hot. You don't want to burn the oil, nor the garlic.
- When the garlic turns into a light golden colour, add the chili flakes. Let fry with the garlic for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Again, make sure the garlic does't burn. If the oil gets too hot, turn off the heat.
- Finally, add the finally chopped parsley to the pan and turn the heat off. Cook the parsley with the residual heat of the pan.
- When the pasta is ready, drain it and toss it in the pa. Turn on the heat on medium and finish cooking the pasta in the pan with the sauce while stirring for another minute. Add a ladle or two of pasta water to make the whole thing come together.
- Serve immediately with some extra chili flakes and parsley on top. Enjoy this simple and delicious meal.
👨🏻🍳 Top tips
Chop everything in advance
If you haven't done this recipe before my advice is to chop the garlic and the parsley before you start cooking the pasta. This is because you need to give your full attention to the garlic while it turns golden in the oil.
Garlic burns very easily in hot oil, so you need to make sure that the oil doesn't become too hot. If you burn the garlic don't worry, this happens. But you'll need to start again, or your pasta will taste really bitter and burned.
Use the right pasta type
This recipe is best with long pasta types. Spaghetti or linguine are the best. Another thing you should look for when you buy your pasta is the ingredients. Unfortunately, pasta has a bad reputation for being unhealthy, but this cannot be further from the truth.
Authentic Italian pasta, made from durum wheat or whole wheat - best if organic - is an incredible food. It has a perfect balance of protein (13g) and carbs (73g), is low fat (1.5g), and has low glycemic index. Just make sure you don't buy low quality pasta made from white flour.
It took me 4 years to convince Louise to give pasta a try. Like most people she was afraid to get fat after eating pasta. After many months of eating it, she has never been slimmer and happier. And if I don't cook pasta at least once per day I am in big trouble 🙂
Salt the pasta water but don't put oil in it
With all pasta recipes, and in particular with this one, is very important to put a generous amount of salt - one handful for 3 to 4 litres (1 gallon) of water - into the water you cook the pasta in.
The best salt is coarse sea salt. Sea salt is healthier than table salt and it gives a better flavour to the food since it contains natural minerals. Good quality sea salt is made by letting the sea water dry in the sun. Table salt, on the other hand, is made by chemically extracting the salt from the ground, then adding chemicals to it to make it stay dry. It's bad. Never buy table salt.
When you cook pasta, you should add the salt to the water only after the water is already boiling. I've been telling my mom this since my first class of cooking school when I was 14, but she never listens to me and she still puts the salt in cold water.
The result? It's gonna take longer for the water to boil as adding the salt increases the boiling point of the water. So, if you are in a hurry, salt the water once is already boiling.
P.s. There is no need to put oil in the pasta water when you cook dry pasta.
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If you have any tips or questions let us know in the comments below!