Spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino is a quick, surprisingly healthy, easy to make recipe that every Italian makes at LEAST once a month.
In fact, this is the ultimate go-to pasta that they make when they’re short on time and/or ingredients.
You can make it in mere 15 minutes with 4 simple ingredients that you have in your pantry!
This makes pasta aglio e olio perfect for situations like:
- Just got home and don’t know what to cook.
- You’re back from vacation and have an empty fridge.
- You have unexpected (hungry) guests and need to whip up something quick and delicious that everyone will love.
- You want a simple, no fuss but delicious doze of carbs!
- A variation or a mix of all the above.
Spaghetti aglio, olio e peperocino is one of the simplest (and cheapest!) Italian recipes.
And I guarantee, it’ll save your lunch or dinner times and times, especially when you’re short on time, ingredients or physical energy.
Many Italians prepare Sapghetti Aglio e Olio for lunch, when they have to return to work in a short time. Others use it when they are on a diet, because it allows them to enjoy a good dish using only healthy ingredients. It is also great dish for when you’re on a budget.
In Italy, spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino is also often referred to as “midnight spaghetti”.
It’s especially popular among students.
Mainly because it donesn’t require any cooking skills and you always have all the ingredients available. So it’s easy to make aglio e olio pasta even at midnight, when you just got home and even if there’s a big crowd to feed.
What Is Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
Spaghetti aglio e olio is a typical recipe of Neapolitan cuisine.
It is part of the so called “cucina piccina partenopea”, which included many simple meals that people from Naples prepared with just a few ingredients.
It is also one of the most famous “piatti poveri” which translates from Italian as “poor man’s dishes”.
As the name suggests, these dishes were usually eaten by the poorest people, who had nearly nothing and could cook with what they could find.
In spite of the rich, the ingredients that were used for these dishes were super healthy and usually didn’t require a lot of preparation time.
Other piatti poveri include pappa col pomodoro, panzanella, passatelli (but not how we know them now) and cipollata.
Spaghetti aglio e olio is probably the simplest Italian recipe. It may seem too easy to be good, but I can assure you that you’ll never get tired of it.
Here’s how to make a plate of perfect pasta aglio e olio even if you’ve never made it before.
Spaghetti Aglio Olio e Peperincino Ingredients
- Spaghetti or other long type of pasta
- Garlic cloves (aglio in Italian)
- Extra virgin olive oil (olio in Italian)
- Chili pepper/hot pepper – fresh or dried (peperoncino in Italian)
- Parsley – while it’s not the absolutely necessary ingredient of pasta aglio e olio it’s still used in 99% of the times. It add a little extra flavor and bright colors to the whole plate.
Some say that Spaghetti Aglio Olio e Peperoncino made with all the ingredients listed above is nothing else but a poor man’s version of Spaghetti with Clams – but without clams 😀
As you can see, this recipe is truly based on a few simple and healthy ingredients:
- Garlic, in fact, is a well-known natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agent, and it also helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Extra virgin olive oil is a source of antioxidants and unsaturated fatty acids, which help keep cholesterol under control.
- Finally, fresh chili peppers are an excellent source of vitamins, carotenoids, minerals, and capsaicin (a natural digestive aid). They also have antioxidant and antibacterial properties.
Tips & Tricks For Making Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
- For milder garlic taste use garlic cloves, which you’ll remove after the sauce is ready. If you like stronger garlic taste garlic cloves should be chopped.
- If you want your pasta to be even more spicy, don’t discard the seeds from chilli peppers but put them in the pan as well.
- If you’re preparing a small portion and you are using a regular size pan, you risk to burn your soffritto. Why? Because there won’t be enough olive oil to generously cover the bottom of the pan without making your pasta too oily. So here’s what you should do.
Tilt the pan slightly after you’ve added all the ingredients for the sauce so that garlic, peperoncino and parsey are fully covered with oil. This way they will cook evenly without being burnt.
How To Make Spaghetti Aglio Olio e Peperincino
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- Once water is boiling add salt to taste and cook spaghetti ‘al dente’.
- While you’re waiting, start preparing the sauce.
- Peel garlic clove(s), split it in half and discard the green part that is in the middle. Chop the rest of the clove.
If you’re using whole (fresh or dried) chili pepper, slice it lengthwise, remove the seeds and discard the stem. Chop peperoncino coarsely.
Put oil, garlic and peperoncino or chili flakes in a skillet pan, start heating over low heat.
Let them fry for about two minutes then add a little bit of parsley.
Once spaghetti are cooked, move them to the skillet along with a small ladle or so of pasta cooking water. The pasta should not float in the water, add just enough to let pasta absorb a little bit of it.
Toss everything in the pan for a minutes or so. Add the remaining chopped parsley and give it another nice toss before serving.
How To Plate Spaghetti
Pick as much spaghetti from the pan as you can using preferably straight long food tongs, place them in a soup laddle and twirl until you get a spaghetti nest. Gently transfer spaghetti on a plate (see photo below).
Here’s what a perfectly plated bowl of spaghetti looks like.
Possible Variations/ Add-Ons
In addition to basic ingredients for spaghetti aglio e olio some like to add a fillet of anchovy.
This does not go against tradition, because anchovy has always been really easy to fish near Naples, and it is likely that people added this ingredient even in older times.
If you want to do that too, you should add your fillet after the garlic starts to brown. Stir it with well with a wooden spoon until it melts, then add the spaghetti.
This is also a dish that people like to improvise with, so there are some less orthodox (but not any less good) variations.
Many, for example, add a sprinkle of grated lemon zest at the end of the cooking process to add a fresh flavor.
Try it during the summer!
Others add a bit of toasted breadcrumbs to give it a little crunch.
Most definitely there are even more possible add-ons.
But those 3 are the most common ones that won’t alternate the taste, cost and ingredient list too much.
If you have your favorite add-on to spaghetti aglio olio e peperoncino I’d love to know!
Spaghetti Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino
- 14 oz spaghetti , approx 400g
- 2-4 garlic cloves
- 6-8 sprigs of parsley , chopped, stem removed
- ½ – ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil , enough to cover the bottom of your skillet pan
- 2 small red chili pepper (peperoncino) chili flakes to taste
- Salt to taste
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- Once water is boiling add salt to taste and cook spaghetti ‘al dente’.While you’re waiting, start preparing the sauce.
- Peel garlic clove(s), split it in half and discard the green part that is in the middle. Chop the rest of the clove.If you’re using whole (fresh or dried) chili pepper, slice it lengthwise, remove the seeds and discard the stem. Chop peperoncino coarsely.
- Put oil, garlic and fresh peperoncino or dried chili flakes in a skillet pan, start heating over low heat.Let them fry for about two minutes then add a little bit of parsley.
- Once spaghetti are cooked, move them to the skillet along with a small ladle of so of pasta cooking water. Pasta should not float in the water, add just enough to let pasta absorb a little bit of it. Toss everything in the pan for a minutes or so. Add the remaining chopped parsley and give it another nice toss before serving.
Now you know how to make a perfect bowl of Spaghetti Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino – how Italians make it.