Spaghetti Aglio e Olio

James Beard

Author and Educator

"If you’ve never tasted one of the simplest and best of all sauces for pasta, I suggest that next time you hunger for a plate of spaghetti, you try spaghetti aglio e olio with plenty of oil and garlic." —James Beard


  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley, optional


In a large pot, cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water until just tender but still bitey—as the Italians say, al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup pasta water before draining.

Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat the best olive oil you have on hand until warm and it starts to shimmer. Add the chopped garlic (this may sound like a lot, but it is the garlic that makes the dish) and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Turn off heat and let them soak in the warm oil. Optional: stir in red pepper flakes when you add the garlic.

Drain the spaghetti well, and toss it with the oil and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Warm the pasta over medium heat and stir in pasta water until thickened. Add parsley if desired. Don’t serve cheese with this. The distinctive and complementary flavors of the oil and garlic are all you need.


Adapted from James Beard's original recipe. Recipe photo and food styling by Judy Kim.


4 servings