Spaghetti aglio e olio is a traditional Italian classic pasta dish which means spaghetti with garlic and oil. If you love garlic, then you will love this dish. It is the simplest and most basic of all pasta dish consisting of spaghetti with only a few other ingredients. This is the kind of dish that makes you pause to think that the simplest foods are often the most wonderful as it's so easy yet inexpensive to make. This whole dish takes only about 20 minutes to cook. True Italian 'fast food' indeed and a perfect one dish meal to cook up anytime for anyone. Also a perfect solution when you suddenly have guests coming over and you've nothing to serve. This dish is certain to be wowed when you cook them this delicious, flavourful and heartwarming meal.
500 grams spaghetti
5 litres water
1 - 2 tbsp salt
1/2 cup Extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped finely
1 tbsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 tbsp ground black pepper, or to taste
Step 1: Fill a Large Pot With Water and Add Salt Into It.
To cook spaghetti, first fill a large pot with a good amount of water. This will ensure the pasta plenty of space to move which helps it cook evenly. Hence, the pasta will not stick together while it's cooking.
It's necessary to salt the water before adding the pasta so that the pasta can absorb the salted water while cooking and brings out the flavour of the pasta. So be sure to add a generous amount of salt into the water as this is the only time you are using salt in the dish. Once the pasta is cooked, there will be no chance to season the pasta anymore.
For 500g pasta, bring 5 litre water to a rolling boil.
For 5 litre water, add 1 to 2 tbsp salt.
Step 2: Bring the Water to a Boil.
A generous pot of rapidly boiling water is helpful when cooking the spaghetti as this will help to prevent the pasta from sticking together by quickly washing away the starch from the pasta surface while it's cooking. It enables the water to come back to a boil faster after adding the pasta. Also it makes it easier to submerge long and rigid pastas like spaghetti.
Furthermore, adding pasta to water that isn't boiling will actually increase the overall cook time and cause the pasta to sit in the water for a longer time. Hence, it may result in pasta that has absorbed too much water with a mushy texture.
Step 3: Add the Spaghetti.
The best pasta for this recipe is either a dry factory made spaghetti or very thin angel hair because of it's ability to stand up and not be overpowered by the oil based garlic sauce. On the other hand a fresh homemade, egg based pasta would be overpowering and may absorb too much of the garlic sauce.
To cook the spaghetti, drop one end of the pasta into the boiling water and as it softens, push it down gently (with a wooden spoon) until it bends in the middle and is completely immersed. Cook according to package instructions till al dente, about 10 minutes. The spaghetti should be cooked al dente so that it is still firm to the bite. Always test pasta for doneness just before you think it should be ready as it can easily overcook. Stir the pasta often to prevent sticking.
To prevent pasta from sticking together while it's cooking:
Use a LARGE pot and PLENTY of water.
Keep the water at a rolling boil and cover the pot after putting in the pasta to bring the water back to a boil more quickly. This is an essential moment. Otherwise the pasta will be sitting in hot water, resulting in mushy pasta. Once water is boiling again, remove the lid to prevent the water from boiling over and stir the pasta.
Periodically stir the pasta while it's cooking especially in the first 2 to 3 minutes as that's when it's at its stickiest. The pasta is more likely to stick together in the beginning before the starches are released into the water. If you don't stir, pieces of pasta that are touching one another literally cook together.
Cooking time varies according to the type, size and shape of the pasta:
Filled pasta takes about 12 minutes.
Dried pasta needs 8 1o 10 minutes.
Fresh pasta needs only 2 to 3 minutes.
Step 4: Drain When Al Dente (firm-tender).
The pasta is the real star in this dish as it's not drenched in heavy, overbearing sauce so it is important to make sure the pasta is cooked al dente or firm to the bite yet cooked through. You may need to test the pasta 2 or 3 times before it's just right.
As soon as the pasta is ready, turn off the heat and scoop out 1 cup of pasta water before draining the cooked pasta in a large colander over a sink. The reserved pasta water contains starch that can be used later to adjust the consistency of the sauce or pasta. Be sure to drain until the pasta is completely dry so when you add oil to it, the pasta will absorb the oil like a sponge. This will prevent oil left at the bottom of the pan after tossing the pasta.
There are three basic methods of removing pasta from its cooking water: the drain, the spoon-shaped claw or the scoop.
Drain method is the most classic. Simply pour the pot of pasta and water through a colander set in your sink.
Claw method works best with long strand-styles pasta like spaghetti, angel hair and fettuccine. The spoon-shaped claw has spiked teeth along the rim to grab and hold pasta with a perforated centre to allow water to drain away.
Scoop method comes in handy if you want to keep the hot pasta water for another use. The scoop is a long handled colander with a wide base designed to scoop the pasta up out of the pot.
Step 5: Prepare Ingredients for the Sauce.
While the spaghetti is cooking, quickly work on the sauce.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Use a good quality and flavourful extra virgin olive oil as it provides the richest olive flavour. Extra virgin is the highest grade of olive oil and is cold pressed / first pressing (no use of heat or chemicals).
When choosing, look for firm heads with dry skins that feel heavy for their size. Do not use those that are brittle, already turning yellow or comes in a jar already cut up.
You can choose to slice the garlic into thin pieces or you can choose to mince the garlic finely enough to avoid eating any big spicy chunks.
Parsley is the world's most popular herb. The two most popular types of parsley are curly parsley and Italian flat leaf parsley, more commonly called Italian parsley. Since Italian parsley has a stronger flavour, it is the type preferred for cooking. The curly-leafed is normally used for garnishing.
Red Pepper Flakes
This is a condiment consisting of dried red chili peppers crushed into flakes, with the seeds included. The high percentage of seeds in it makes for a very hot addition to the pasta dish.
Ground Black Pepper
Black pepper is the most pungent and flavourful of all types of pepper and it is available as whole or cracked peppercorns or ground into powder.
Step 6: In a Cold Skillet, Add the Olive Oil.
A good, flavourful extra virgin olive oil is essential for this dish.
Add cold extra virgin oil (room temperature) into the cold skillet. DO NOT heat up the skillet first.
Step 7: Immediately Add the Sliced Garlic.
Make sure the cold extra virgin oil and fresh garlic are added TOGETHER into the cold skillet. Only heat up the skillet after both garlic slices and olive oil has been added. The key is to slowly toast the garlic slices to a perfect golden brown in the olive oil to enable garlic flavour from the garlic to infuse into the olive oil as much as possible.
Step 8: Heat Up Skillet With Olive Oil and Garlic in It.
Using medium-low heat, heat up the cold extra virgin olive oil together with the garlic slices. Spread the garlic out in the pan a little so it cooks evenly. Cook for about 5 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently, until garlic begins to turn golden on the edges and is super fragrant. Do not overcook the garlic or it will be bitter.
Step 9: Then Add the Hot Pepper Flakes, According to Taste.
Red pepper flakes add another dimension of flavour to the pasta dish without making every mouthful hot and spicy. They kind of elevate the taste of the garlic flavour in the olive oil, making the simple garlic sauce complex and interesting.
Store the red pepper flakes in a spice jar or tin. The flakes retain their potency for a very long time.
Step 10: Cook for Another 3 Minutes.
This is a classic combination of 3 basic ingredients of olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes. Using low heat to continue cooking, the end result is a very beautiful, flavourful and heartwarming garlic oil sauce. Remove from skillet and add to the drained pasta immediately.
Step 11: Pour the Garlic Infused Olive Oil Mixture Into the Hot Spaghetti.
Combine the drained pasta with the garlic infused olive oil sauce and toss until all the spaghetti is well coated. Add a ladle of the reserved pasta water if needed. It is best to toss the pasta in a warmed saucepan with the hot garlic oil sauce.
Depending on the recipe, sometimes you place the pasta on a plate and top it with the sauce. For this dish, it's best to combine the two immediately in a pot before serving.
Do not over sauce the pasta. Let the flavour of the pasta kind of stand out in the dish.
Step 12: Toss in Some Freshly Chopped Parsley and Sprinkle Ground Black Pepper.
Whenever possible, choose fresh parsley over the dried form since it is superior in flavour. Choose fresh parsley that is deep green in colour and looks fresh and crisp. It should be added towards the end of the cooking process so that it can best retain its taste, colour and nutritional value.
Also add freshly ground black pepper only at the end of the cooking process. This is because it loses its flavour and aroma if cooked for too long, hence adding it near the end will help preserve its flavour.
Fresh parsley should be kept in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. It should only be washed right before using since it is highly fragile. The best way to clean is to place it in a bowl of cold water and swish it around with your hands. Repeat this process a few times until no dirt remains in the water.
To ensure best flavour, buy whole peppercorns and grind them yourself in a mill just before adding to the dish. They should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place. Whole peppercorns will keep indefinitely while ground black pepper will stay fresh for about 3 months.
Step 13: Toss Everything Together.
Toss to coat and emulsify the sauce to ensure the garlic infused oil coats every strand of the spaghetti. Allow pasta to cool for 5 minutes for the garlic sauce to be absorbed.
Step 14: Serve the Spaghetti Immediately.
Portion out the pasta and serve immediately with a touch more of ground black pepper and freshly chopped parsley. And we're done!
For a more flavourful pasta, always drain the pasta thoroughly yet quickly so it doesn't cool and toss it immediately with the hot garlic infused olive oil.