Aglio E Olio

This fancy sounding Italian dish, that is near impossible for me to pronounce, is actually a very simple and delicious pasta with garlic oil. If you want to try to pronounce it, it’s something like “ahl-yo e ohl-yo.”  I sound like someone who’s mouth has just been heavily numbed with Novocaine trying to talk to a baby when pronouncing it.

Pasta with garlic oil it is then.

This dish is actually considered a peasant dish in Italy–man their peasants eat well–and it is  beautiful in it’s simplicity. It is very fragrant and leaves a clean, almost velvety aftertaste.

My version of this dish has some untraditional twists (like lemon) that may make some purists shudder, but there is one key element to this dish: the garlic.  You want the olive oil to be infused with the flavor of the garlic and  slightly browned.  You do have to be very careful about cooking the garlic–it should be lightly toasted and if you go a few seconds too long you could end up with a bitter dish.  Here’s what I do to make sure it turns out right:

First, as the pasta water is heating up mince the garlic and add it to the pan with the olive oil.  Just let it sit there without any heat for several minutes–this will allow the garlic to start infusing into the oil.  I do this with pasta sauce too, it’s a great little trick to add more depth of flavor.

Second, keep the heat of the burner at a medium or medium low and be patient. Let the garlic slowly heat up until you get little bubbles and sizzling, then stir the garlic.

Finally, turn the heat off!  Once the garlic just begins to toast and is sizzling, turn the heat off on the stove. At this point, I will remove the pan from the heat and stir a bit and then place it back on the burner so it gently cooks with the residual heat.  Keep a close eye on things and stir often.  The whole process takes about 5-6 minutes, so while it sounds involved you won’t be laboring over the stove.

I find that this method of low and then residual heat really allows the garlic flavor time to infuse and mellow.  Despite fears of garlic breath, cooking it this way results in such a delicate flavor that you will be (mostly) okay.

Here’s my recipe, this is for one serving.



  • Thin Spaghetti, portioned for one. (whatever that is. Is anyone really good at portioning out pasta?) 
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced or very thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (you can adjust for heat level–I like a little spice)
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon and zest
  • Tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
  • 1/4 cup reserved pasta water
  • Freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon breadcrumbs
  • Salt and Pepper


  1. Start the pasta water (make sure to salt it!) and cook pasta according to box directions. At the same time, add your minced garlic to a sauté pan with the olive oil.  Do not turn on the heat yet, just let it sit.  
  2. While the pasta is going, prep all of your other ingredients

    Prepped and ready

    Prepped and ready

  3. When there is about 7 minutes left on the pasta, begin the sauce. On a medium to medium low heat, get the garlic going. When it starts to sizzle, give it a stir and then remove from heat.  Turn the burner off. At this point, add the red pepper flakes and a little salt and pepper. Continue to stir and monitor until the garlic is very lightly toasted and fragrant. Add a few squeezes of lemon juice (do not do the whole half–that’s too tart)
  4. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water and drain your pasta. Place the sauté pan on the burner that the pasta was just on–this one will be a little hotter since it was just turned off–and add the pasta and pasta water.  Stir this around for about 30 seconds so the pasta absorbs the sauce, then add the breadcrumbs and stir to thicken the sauce.
  5. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley.
  6. Plate the pasta and top with some lemon zest, cheese and Maldon salt if you have it (I love that stuff)




Tags: , ,

Categories: Pasta, Recipes


A former English teacher living in Stuttgart, Germany who finds some sanity and peace through cooking.


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One Comment on “Aglio E Olio”

  1. Deborah
    January 12, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

    you could call it yodel pasta-ahl-yo! But what a perfect dish for a night on your own-sounds rich, indulgent, and somewhat easy to make

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