Aglio e Olio, otherwise known in English as Olive Oil and Garlic, are the key players in this tasty and timeless Italian dish. I remember being a child visiting the historic town of Itri, in central Italy’s Lazio region, and enjoying a large family lunch outdoors, with this pasta being the main attraction. It was one of the best pastas I had ever eaten and my enthusiasm must have shown. Franca, our distant cousin who embodies all of the loveable and stereotypical characteristics of an Italian nonna in the kitchen, took me inside and showed me how to make it. I remember, even as a kid, being so surprised at the simplicity of it all, and how something so easy could taste so delicious. This was twenty years ago, and I’ve been making it ever since.
Spaghetti Aglio e Olio Country of Origin: Italy
- Kosher salt
- 4 handfuls of arugula
- 1-pint grape tomatoes, halved
- 8 garlic cloves
- 1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lb spaghetti, thick spaghetti, bucatini, or other long strand pasta
- Parmesan and crushed red pepper flakes (for serving)
- Flaky sea salt
- Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil.
- Whack garlic with the side of a chef’s knife to crush; peel off skins. *(Only if you do not have a garlic press, finely chop the garlic and set aside while oil heats up.) Heat 1/2 cup olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium. Cook garlic, stirring occasionally, until sizzling, about 3 minutes. Season very generously with black pepper and cook, until garlic has a light golden color. Season with kosher salt and both black and crushed red pepper.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta, stirring occasionally, until very al dente (2–3 minutes less than package directions).
- Using tongs, add pasta to garlic-oil; splashing in about 1 cup pasta water. Cook, tossing and adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until sauce lightly coats pasta, about 2 minutes.
- Toss in arugula and grape tomatoes
- Serve pasta topped with Parmesan, red pepper flakes, sea salt, and more black pepper and a dash of olive oil drizzled on top.