Mar 18, 2009

Spaghetti Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino


Today I'm serving up one of my favorite easy home-cooked recipes. It's the Italian cook's ode to simplicity. I love it sthe point of having named my blog after it, Spaghetti Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino.

Aio e oio, like we say in the Eternal City, is a classic Roman pasta dish. It's made with very few basic ingredients, so it works as a perfect fix when the pantry's empty and no one's bothered to go grocery shopping. Essential is the starchy pasta cooking water.

2 garlic cloves (or more to taste), finely chopped
1 dried peperoncino (red chili pepper), crumbled, or more to taste. Some may prefer to use fresh chili
100 ml (2/3 cup) extra virgin olive oil
Fresh basil (or parsley), finely chopped
400 g (14 oz) spaghetti

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil and cook the spaghetti. This will take about 9 minutes so you'll have to budget you timing at the stove wisely.

While the pasta cooks, sauté the minced garlic and peperoncino in the oil until the garlic is golden, 2-3 minutes. Add the basil/parsley to the pan, and remove from the stove.

Drain the spaghetti al dente, that is, nearly but not quite done and still a bit chalky in the middle.  About 2-3 minutes before the box says. IMPORTANT: reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid.

When the oil has cooled for a couple of minutes, add 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water, and reduce over high heat by about half. This will take a few seconds.
Add the pasta, and stir vigorously as it continues to cook. Add the reserved pasta water a little at a time as necessary to finish cooking the pasta, and develop the thickened cremina sauce. Season with salt, and bring to the table.

Please do not serve dusted with grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano. Some folks do, including some Romans. I don't. Toasted breadcrumbs are an option.

Buon Appetito!


  1. Delicious!! This is one of my favorite quick suppers. If I get to teach cooking next fall, this is definitely one of the basic recipes I'll use.

  2. Yummy! It's early here and I'm ready to go make this for breakfast. Well, maybe not. Garlic for breakfast might not work out today.
    Once in Mexico we had something like this. They called it spaghetti al burro. I still make my own version once in a while and remember our trip.

  3. anno - wait, did you just say, teach cooking? Woo hoo! Can I sign up? Love cooking classes. Tell me more about it, please.

    Susan - Unless you're planning a surprize visit from a vampire, I suggest you stick to garlic for lunch and dinner. Aperitivo, maybe - but I'd refrain from consuming it at breakfast. Make this and report back. Ciao

  4. This is one of my favorite dishes too :)

  5. Ciao Ele-
    Of course, this is one of my all time favorite meals and like you said, very easy to make. I don't mince the garlic though, I smash and leave all the oils in the garlic when I drop it in the olive oil. The oil cooks so fast and hate the bitterness.
    Un abbraccio forte.

  6. This is one of my favourite pasta dishes!!!! Think I'll make it for dinner tomorrow night.

    Thanks for visiting my blog. You're welcome anytime for things Africa (mainly southern Africa for me at the moment)


  7. Philip - I have this repulsion for garlic crushers, hence the mincing. But smashed cloves work ok too. Have you ever tried flavoring oil with the garlic "in camicia," that is without peeling the husk off? It tends to take a bit of the edge off. I'm more of a oomph garlic person myself. Ciao

    Janet - So glad you could stop by. You're always welcome. Prepare this and report back. South Africa...ahh, such fond memories!

  8. ummm, I love it. I eat it often and didn't know what it was. I thought it was me being lazy. Huh! Ever do it with homemade pasta. Good lord, it's devine!

    (Thank you for all of your kindesses round my way. You are really very good to me.)

  9. I hate to admit it, hmm, will you still like me afterwards? - but I DON`T like garlic.
    Am I lost for the Italian cocina??

  10. It seems it’s everyone's favourite spaghetti, so easy *even* for us lazy Roman men lol. Of course, with parmigiano, nah, definitely not. Interesting your blog is named after it.

  11. City girl - glad you like it. Twirl up and enjoy.

    Erin - Will try the homemade rendition, it sounds interesting (I never tried it, THAT's being lazy). You're the one that's good to us readers, silly!

    Angela - ...YOU WHAT? (OK, I still like you)

    Manofroma - Buon appetito, Maestro :)

  12. I couldn't pronounce this dish as a child. I still call it "spaghetti I-O-U" LOL
    It's delicious!

  13. Okay, I'm going to embarrass myself here and ask why is parmigiano not used in this dish?

    I'll do it the real way, of course, but is there a clear reason for this custom? Want to keep the flavors of the other ingredients pure?

    I'm pretty sure I had this once, though there's not a lot of authentic Italiano around my home. How could you go wrong with garlic and good oil?

    Thanks for the visit Lola!

  14. sallymandy - yes, in this case the parmigiano would totally nullify the garlic/oil/peperoncino bite. It would be like pulling a stiff, itchy wool blanket over a crisp linen bedsheet.
    I'm with you on that, you can never go wrong with simple. Buon appetito!

  15. Okay, I get it. Thanks.

    I'm so hungry now.

  16. nothing like being a bit behind in my blog reading...i have to comment because i have been eating aglio oglio all my life thank God! It is so simple yet so so yummy...i am so hungry now!

  17. I love this recipe and I would make it but I am completely out of olive oil! But I am making a dinner from my pantry until shopping day.

  18. Funny, my fathers side of the family is from Firenze and they ALWAYS serve this with Parmesan. I love its simplicity.

  19. Lisa~ Sorry to get back this late!! Comment must've slipped in the remodeling melee. Thank you!!
    Italianmamachef~ Uh oh, never be out of olive oil!! Did you read my pantry post? :)
    Anonymous~ As I said some like it cheesy. There is no decree that forbids it, I am part of those who aren't particularly fond of grated Parmigiano with this dish, that's all. And yes, the simplicity of it is part of its charm.

    Thank you for your comments!

  20. This is the original Italian recipe. Translate it and cooking spaghetti!

  21. Eleonora, this is probably a dumb question but i am hoping you can help me as my google searches all come up with a variation on your above recipe but do not help me in my predicament. When in Rome, which we LOVED, (have you been to Alfonso y Ada? so good! anyhow, we bought a bag of pre-mixed dried Aglio, Peperoncino, & Prezzemolo. (whith no instructions on it) my question to you is this: there is 100g of dried spices and i have no clue how much olive oil to mix it with... do you have any pointers?


    1. Ithyle, thank you for taking the time to read and leave your comment.

      I will email you this same answer, but I'll reply here in case you pop by again: 100gr is A LOT of condiment! That quantity is intended for several dinners!!
      If you're planning to use i box of spaghetti (1.1.lbs) 2-3 tablespoons of dried condiment and 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil are more than enough for 4-5 servings.

      That said, I am not a believer in spice packs: why go with dried ingredients (devoid of much of the flavor) when you can enjoy the real thing with very little effort? ;)
      Happy new year!