A classic dish of Italy’s cucina povera, this pasta aglio e olio recipe gets a noteworthy upgrade with crispy garlic chips and sourdough breadcrumbs.
Agilo e olio (garlic and oil) is a traditional Italian pasta recipe made with 3 simple ingredients: pasta, garlic and olive oil. Common variations include parsley and spicy red pepper flakes; I add homemade sourdough breadcrumbs for crunch.
What I love about aglio e olio, is that it was born out of nothing. A classic dish of Italy’s cucina povera (poor kitchen) it’s a fantastic, flavorful budget recipe celebrating the simplicity of fresh and available ingredients. I’m completely addicted.
Now, a quick search online shows that most agilo e olio recipes are the same. And rightfully so. The idea is to quickly sauté garlic in olive oil while the pasta cooks, adding a splash of starchy pasta water to emulsify the sauce. That’s the dish, with a bit of finesse. With respect to the original however, I have a few fresh tips to share making this aglio e olio recipe next level.
Why This Recipe Works.
- Fresh homemade pasta (instead of dried) enhances the texture of this dish. It’s soft, light and tender! Spaghetti is the traditional pasta shape.
- The pasta is cooked in a smaller amount of water, which creates more starch to emulsify and thicken the sauce. Pasta water is a key ingredient.
- Crispy fried garlic chips makes aglio e olio more flavorful. The leftover garlic-infused oil is used to finish the pasta.
- Sourdough breadcrumbs top the pasta for taste and texture. If you’ve never tried breadcrumbs on pasta before, it’s delicious.
Aglio e Olio Ingredients (You Will Need):
- Spaghetti Pasta
- Olive Oil
- Hot red pepper flakes
- Fresh Parsley
- Seasoned breadcrumbs
- Fresh Garlic is Best. Grab fresh garlic from the farmers market, the kind with the soft (not papery) skin, and your life will change forever. The flavor is light and delicate. Of course, regular garlic is fine too. Stay away from any garlic cloves with the skinny green stems poking out. The flavor is way too strong.
- Use a Mandolin. You’ll need it for paper thin, uniform garlic slices. If you don’t have one, try a vegetable peeler. Or, thinly slice it yourself. Whatever you do, don’t chop the garlic into tiny pieces for this recipe.
- Choose Quality Olive Oil. You want something flavorful, but not bitter and dark. Olive oil is a main ingredient, treat it accordingly. From the grocery store, try Lucini, California Olive Ranch and La Tourangelle.
- Aldente is Important. The pasta will finish cooking in the sauce, so it’s important to start with aldente pasta instead of fully cooked. Otherwise the texture will become mushy. And you can’t fix mushy pasta.
Sample Cooking Timeline with Fresh Pasta
The easiest and fastest way to make aglio e olio is with store-bought fresh pasta or dried pasta from the box. The sauce is ready in the time it takes the pasta to cook. However, if you want to make fresh homemade pasta, read my timeline below. I make pasta in the morning (1 hour), and complete the dish around 6 PM for dinner (30 minutes).
- 9 AM: Make pasta dough in the food processor (1-2 minutes). Rest for 30 minutes.
- 9:30 AM: Roll and cut the pasta into spaghetti (15-20 minutes). I use my Kitchen Aid stand mixer with the pasta attachments.
- 10:00/10:15 AM: Dust pasta with semolina flour to prevent sticking, store on a sheet pan covered tightly in plastic wrap. Hold at room temp (if moderate) or chill until dinnertime.
- 6:00 PM: Make garlic chips and toast breadcrumbs (15 minutes)
- 6:15 PM: Boil pasta water/start aglio e olio sauce.
- 6:30 PM: Done!
More Pasta Recipes & Sauces To Try:
- Ragù Bolognese Sauce
- 20-Minute Arrabbiata Sauce
- Homemade Italian Sausage Ragù
- Quick Sicilian-Style Tomato Sauce
- Easy Golden Butter & Sage Pasta Sauce
- Authentic Pomodoro Sauce (Fresh or Canned)
- Classic Italian Basil Pesto (Pesto alla Genovese)
- Pesto alla Trapanese (Sicilian Pesto)
A classic staple of Italy’s cucina povera (poor kitchen), this pasta aglio e olio recipe gets a noteworthy upgrade with crispy garlic chips and sourdough breadcrumbs.
For the Crispy Garlic Chips
- 4 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
For the Breadcrumbs
- 1 tbsp. garlic oil (reserved from from garlic chips)
- 1/3 cup (35g) seasoned breadcrumbs (homemade sourdough breadcrumbs or store-bought)
For Pasta Aglio e Olio
- 240 g (8 oz) fresh homemade pasta or 225 g (1/2 lb.) dried spaghetti
- 1/3 cup good-quality olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, preferably fresh, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup (12 g) chopped parsley
- 1/2– 1 tsp red pepper flakes
Notes & Tips:
- I use a mandolin to thinly slice the garlic.
- Use the freshest garlic available for this dish. It makes a huge difference in flavor.
- Have every single ingredient prepped and ready before cooking the pasta- this dish comes together fast.
- The pasta will finish cooking in the sauce, so it’s important to start with aldente pasta instead of fully cooked. Otherwise the texture will become mushy. You can’t fix mushy pasta.
- The prep & cook times indicated above reflect using dried spaghetti. If using store-bought fresh pasta, reduce the cook time (follow the packet instructions). If using homemade fresh pasta, refer to my timeline in the blog post.
Make the Garlic Chips: In a small skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic slices. Cook until light golden in color, about 1 minute. Do not brown (they will taste bitter!). Strain over a small bowl and reserve the garlic-infused oil. Transfer the garlic chips to a paper towel lined plate. Use the skillet to toast the breadcrumbs.
Toast the Breadcrumbs: Measure out 1 tbsp. of the reserved garlic oil; pour into the same skillet used for the garlic chips. Warm over medium heat. Toast the breadcrumbs, stirring occasionally, until golden. Transfer to a bowl.
Make Pasta Aglio e Olio: Bring a pot of water to a boil; season generously with salt.
In a large 12-inch skillet, add the olive oil and sliced garlic. Adjust the heat to medium. Cook until the garlic becomes fragrant (about 30 seconds). There should be no color on the garlic. Do not brown. Add the red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt. Take the pan off the heat.
When the pasta is aldente: Transfer with tongs into the skillet, allowing some of the pasta water to cling to the strands. Place the skillet back onto the heat. Adjust to medium. Season with salt, add the parsley, and toss with tongs to combine. Continue to cook until the sauce emulsifies, adding more pasta water as needed if it becomes dry. Alternatively, add more oil if the sauce needs it.
Transfer the pasta into a large serving bowl. Drizzle with some of the reserved garlic oil. Top with garlic chips and toasted breadcrumbs to finish.
Keywords: Italian, pasta, recipe, Naples, aglio e olio, garlic, olive oil, parsley, red pepper flakes, garlic chips, sourdough breadcrumbs, cucina povera