Aglio, olio, et al. (-io)

In its simplest form, this Italian classic consists merely of spaghetti dressed in garlic (aglio) and olive oil (olio), though chili flakes and parsley are a common addition. We’ve replaced the flakes with fresh chili, reinforced the olive taste with actual olives, and heightened the addiction factor with toasted pine nuts. One of our more sinful creations — be sure to combine it with some lazy veggies to balance it out!

Source improved upon public domain Difficulty trivial Time 25 min Serves 2



  • 250 g spaghetti (dry)
  • 2 tbsp decent olive oil
  • 1–2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 red hot chili pepper
  • around 10 pitted black olives
  • 1 handful of pine nuts
  • 1 bunch of fresh parsley
  • grated cheese, e.g. Gruyère

See this post about decent olive oil.

The traditional cheese to use for Italian pasta is Parmesan or Grana Padano, but I prefer something with less salt and a more pleasant taste. Gruyère is my favorite choice here, but Dutch cheese (Gouda) works just fine.


You’ll need two pans for this dish: A pot in which to cook the pasta, and a frying pan in which to prepare the dressing. If you’re practiced, you can get the dressing ready in the time it takes the water to heat up and the pasta to cook, but you can just as well do the two chores one after the other. In this case, start with the dressing and leave it in the warm frying pan until the pasta’s ready.

Wash the chili and parsley. Slice the chili and olives into ringlets. Toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan. Remove the stems from the parsley and give the leaves a quick chop. Keep the parsley separate from the rest.

Now pour two tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan and add the garlic, chili, pine nuts, and olives. Heat the pan until you can hear the ingredients sizzle, then turn the heat down low. The garlic should turn translucent but not brown. You can use the same pan as for the pine nuts, but be aware that it gets extremely hot during the toasting, so it might need to cool off for a minute or two before you start with the garlic. Once it’s sizzling peacefully, you can leave it like that until the pasta is ready.

For the pasta. get at least two liters of salted water boiling in a pot (one teaspoon of salt per liter), add the dry spaghetti, and cook them for as long as it says on the packaging. They should no longer be hard or mealy inside, but retain a pleasant amount of bite («al dente»). Pick a spaghetto out of the pan with a fork when the time is almost up and nibble it to make sure you don’t miss the right time. When they’re done, pour the contents of your pot through a coarse sieve bowl in your kitchen sink, and give the sieve a good shake to drain off the spaghetti.

Once you’re done with the pasta, move it into the frying pan with the warm oil dressing, add the chopped parsley, and thoroughly mix everything together. Serve immediately. Sprinkle with grated cheese before eating.


This is already a variation of the classical aglio e olio, but I’m sure you can come up with even more ideas!


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