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Spaghetti Aglio E Olio
Spaghetti Aglio E Olio is a pasta dish with fresh garlic, red chili flakes, and olive oil. It’s super simple, and can be made with ingredients you probably already have on hand. The key to this dish all comes down to method. You’ll need to make sure you incorporate the pasta water correctly, and use the right amount of water to begin with.
Just the Right Amount
I remember cooking dishes that require starchy pasta water, like spaghetti aglio e olio and cacio e pepe. I would fill up the pot with water, and just guess when it came to the amount of water. When it came time to bring the dish together with the reserved pasta water, it never was quite right. The sauce was watery and didn’t hold together. A chef-friend of mine told me the problem was likely that I was using too much water. You see, the water will not be starchy enough if you overfill the pasta pot with water. It’s a good idea to measure the amount of water you’re using. You can experiment with different amounts of water, and while there’s a never ending debate in the cooking world about how much water to use when cooking pasta, I like to stick with 4 quarts.
Using the Pasta Water
Some people like to reserve the pasta water in a jug, and strain the spaghetti when making spaghetti aglio e olio. In this recipe, instead of straining the pasta we use tongs to transfer the pasta directly from the pot to the skillet with olive oil. Some of the starchy pasta water will cling to the pasta when you transfer it, and become incorporated into the dish. The starchy pasta water and the olive oil emulsifies as you cook the pasta in the skillet, and creates a beautiful kind of light sauce.
Cook the Spaghetti Al Dente
You will want to make sure you cook the pasta al dente, for six or seven minutes. The pasta will finish cooking once you add it to the skillet. You also want the pasta to have a little bite to it rather than becoming soft and gummy, so make sure you time it correctly.
Adjust it to Your Liking
Most recipes only call for a small amount of red pepper flakes. I like to use more, because I find it adds an extra kick and balances out the garlic in the recipe. The red pepper flakes become even more flavorful when they are added to the hot olive oil, giving this dish that extra something. However, you can use as much or as little as you like.
- 4 quarts cold water
- 1b package spaghetti
- ½ cup olive oil
- 6-8 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
- 2-4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped (plus more for garnish)
- Bring the water to a boil in a large pot, salting the water very generously.
- Add the spaghetti to the pot and cook al dente, 6-7 minutes.
- While the pasta is boiling, add the olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Once the pasta is almost cooked, add the garlic and let it cook in the oil for 30 sec. Then, add the red pepper flakes and let them become fragrant for 1 minute.
- Use tongs to grab the spaghetti in bunches, and add it to the skillet with the oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes. The pasta water will mix with the oil and will help emulsify.
- Vigorously agitate the pasta in the pan using the tongs or flipping the spaghetti repeatedly in the pan. This action is key to make the dish come together.
- Next, if the pasta is a little dry use a ladle or a measuring cup to add some of the reserved starchy pasta water. Add about a 1/4 cup at a time.
- Continue to agitate the pasta until it comes together into a luxurious texture, with the pasta water and oil sticking to the pasta.
- Remove from heat, add the fresh parsley and mix into the spaghetti.
- Twist the spaghetti into a nest in the center of the plate, and garnish with more parsley. Enjoy!