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Aglio e Olio

Help! I need dinner in a hurry and haven’t been to the market.Aglio e Olio To The Rescue

It has happened to me more than I care to admit. I need to put dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less, and I haven’t been to the market. When this happens, I make Aglio e Olio. This delicious dish is made from a handful of humble ingredients that are mainstays in most pantries.

Aglio e Olio translates to garlic and oil in Italian and is a simple sauce usually served with spaghetti. I love this traditional Neapolitan dish because it is inexpensive to prepare, uses ingredients I keep on hand in my pantry, and is utterly delicious. It’s easy and quick—the sauce can be prepared in the time it takes the spaghetti to cook. It is the perfect recipe to have in your back pocket when your family is chomping at the bit— “Feed me now!”

Aglio e Olio is all about the sauce. To start developing flavor, either thinly sliced or minced garlic and crushed red pepper flakes are sautéed over a low heat in olive oil. Once the garlic flavor explodes, I add chopped parsley and lemon zest and juice. You can increase or decrease the amount of garlic and red pepper flakes to meet your family’s culinary preferences. I have seen recipes that use as much as 12 cloves of garlic and two teaspoons of red pepper flakes. Now that’s flavorful!

My grandson’s father makes a version of Aglio e Olio for him, and my grandson loves it. Dallas’ recipe includes sliced black olives, and he calls this dish garlic spaghetti. You can add whatever ingredients your family loves to this simple dish so your kids will chow down. Although the traditional recipe does not include cheese, isn’t everything better with cheese?

Aglio e Olio Serves 4 to 6

Aglio e Olio can stand alone as an entrée or is a great side dish to pair with your favorite meat or seafood.

1 pound spaghetti ½ cup extra virgin olive oil 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced, or to taste 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste ¼ cup reserved cooking water 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped Zest of 1 lemon Juice of 1 lemon Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Fill a large pot with cold water that has been generously salted and bring to a boil over a high heat. Add spaghetti and cook according to package directions, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. In a large skillet, place olive oil, garlic, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes over a low heat, stirring occasionally until the garlic turns golden, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta into a colander, reserving ¼ cup cooking water. Add pasta and reserved water to the olive oil mixture. Mix well. Add parsley and lemon zest and juice. Mix well. Serve the Aglio e Olio in a large serving dish or 4 to 6 dishes. Top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Tips on shopping for parsley: Sold fresh or dried, the most popular varieties of parsley are curly leaf parsley and Italian or flat leaf parsley. Curly leaf is in most supermarkets; Italian is harder to find. Select bunches with bright green leaves and no sign of wilting.

Tips on storing parsley: Wash parsley, shake off excess moisture, wrap in paper towels, then in a reusable, paper, or plastic bag, and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Tips on shopping for lemons: Lemons should be plump and feel heavy for their size. Select bright, shiny fruit. If the rind is an orange-yellow color, it means the lemon was picked when fully ripe. Pass up shriveled, hard-skinned, soft, or spongy fruit. Lemons with a greenish rind are not as juicy. Lemons that do not give when pressed gently will not be as juicy.

Tips on storing lemons: Lemons will keep up to 2 weeks if placed in a reusable, paper, or plastic bag and refrigerated.

Carol Ann

Carol Ann Kates is the award-winning author of cookbook, Secret Recipes from the Corner Market and Grocery Shopping Secrets. She’s an expert in how to shop, select, and store produce for maximizing home cooking outcomes and minimizing time and money spent. As a former supermarket and deli operator, Carol Ann shares grocery-insider wisdom—the same expertise you used to receive when patronizing a mom-and-pop establishment. Contact her at and explore her website,

Copyright 2023 All Rights Reserved Carol Ann Kates

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