Don't let the minimal ingredients in this classic Italian dish fool you—this simple pasta is full of flavour. Made with just spaghetti, olive oil, garlic, and chili flakes, this pasta makes the perfect 10 minute dinner or midnight snack, as the Italians enjoy it. It is naturally dairy-free and vegan, and can easily be made gluten-free.
Spaghetti Aglio Olio e Peperoncino is a classic pasta dish originating from Naples, Italy. It translates to spaghetti with garlic, oil, and spicy peppers. While every region in Italy has their own version of the dish, it is most commonly made as a midnight snack after being out late partying and dancing.
While I do enjoy it late at night, I love to make spaghetti aglio e olio for an easy dinner when I'm short on time. The sauce comes together in 10 minutes with basic ingredients all during the time that the pasta cooks. It's easy, quick, and the most delicious!
Spaghetti aglio e olio is a very simple dish that is naturally dairy-free and vegan. It can easily be made gluten-free by using your favourite pasta. This recipe is based off the authentic version with no lemon, no cheese, no wine, just 4 simple ingredients. Try pairing it with some gluten-free garlic bread, gluten-free focaccia, or a panzanella salad.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- The sauce is made while the pasta cooks. The whole meal is done in 10 minutes.
- Simple ingredients made with pantry staples. Just pasta, oil, garlic, and pepper flakes.
- Easy to make for a crowd.
- A delicious midnight snack, as the Italians do.
- Allergy-friendly. This recipe is nut-free, dairy-free, vegan, and easily gluten-free.
- Pairs well with salad, meat, potatoes, you name it. Italians typically enjoy pasta as a primi or first course, followed by meats, potatoes, salad, and dessert.
Here is everything you'll need to make spaghetti aglio olio e peperoncino:
- Spaghetti or any long pasta, plus sea salt for the cooking water.
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Minced garlic—fresh garlic is best if you have it, but honestly the pre-minced or jarred stuff works for convenience.
- Crushed red pepper flakes—you can omit if you don't like spice
- Chopped fresh parsley—optional
- Grated parmigiano reggiano or pecorino romano—also optional. This recipe is traditionally a "poor man's pasta", meaning cheese was not used because it was expensive. However in modern days, feel free to top it with some grated cheese if you like.
To change up this pasta, here are some substitution suggestions:
- Pasta: If you don't have spaghetti, I recommend using any other long pasta like spaghettoni, fettucine, or spaghettini.
- Protein: Italians actually don't often have chunks of protein in their pasta. They enjoy pasta as a first course, or primi, then enjoy meat, potatoes, and salad as secondi. One protein that I think would work in this dish is if you fried up some shrimp in the oil first. Otherwise enjoy with a side of chicken cutlets, veal, or meatballs.
- Heat: If you want less heat, reduce or omit the chili flakes. If you want more spice, add more or even add spicy red peppers, aka peperoncino fresco.
Be sure to read the recipe card below for the full ingredient list and instructions.
(1) Set a large pot of water to boil on high heat. Once boiling, generously salt the water and add the pasta. Cook according to package instructions, minus 1 minute.
Once the pasta is placed in the water, begin to warm a large frying pan over medium heat.
(2) Add a good quality extra virgin olive oil to the pan. Once hot, add the minced garlic. It should sizzle lightly for 2-3 minutes and turn golden brown. Turn the heat down if it fries and browns too quickly.
Add the red chili peppers and toast for 1 minute.
Add 1 ladle of pasta water and mix to start emulsifying.
(3) Cook the pasta al dente, then use tongs to add the cooked pasta directly from the pot. Add more chili flakes and parsley to the skillet.
(4) Stir with tongs to emulsify the sauce, adding more pasta water as needed for it to glide.
Serve in a large bowl and top with more chili flakes, parsley, and/or grated parmigiano reggiano cheese. Enjoy!
What to Serve with Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
There are many dishes that pair wonderfully with this pasta. Traditionally, Italians will eat pasta as a primi or first course, followed by secondi of meat, vegetables, salad, bread, etc. This pasta is traditionally eaten on its own with no additions in the dish. Here are some suggestions of what to serve with pasta aglio e olio:
- Fried zucchini
- Gluten-free garlic bread
- Gluten-free focaccia
- Gluten-free panzanella salad
- Roasted potatoes and broccoli
- Crunchy kale salad
- Prosciutto wrapped asparagus
and for dessert, try some of these Italian-inspired recipes:
- Chocolate covered pistachios
- Gluten-free lemon cookies
- Chocolate amaretti cookies
- Gluten-free almond biscotti
- Gluten-free dairy-free tiramisu cups
It is recommended to make and eat this recipe while it's fresh and hot. Should you have leftovers, place them in a container and refrigerate. Reheat in the microwave or on the stove with a little bit of oil until the pasta twirls again.
I do not recommend making spaghetti aglio olio e peperoncino ahead of time. It is best served hot and fresh.
Here are some of my top tips and tricks for successful pasta:
- Once boiling, liberally salt the pasta water. The salty pasta water will be added to the oil to make the sauce, and the salt flavour will be welcome since no additional salt is added.
- Cook the pasta to al dente with a slight chew. The pasta will finish cooking in the sauce an absorb all the flavours. Overcooked pasta will fall apart, especially if using gluten-free pasta.
- Less oil is more. Start with just a small amount. You can always add more, but too much and the oil will be dripping off your pasta.
- Don't let the garlic burn. If the garlic turns dark brown or black, start over because it's burnt. You can't save burnt garlic. It only needs to toast for 2-3 minutes.
- You may need to add more pasta water than you think. It's the pasta water that releases starch and forms an emulsified sauce. Without it, you will just have oily pasta. Keep adding pasta water and stirring with the pasta and oil until it clings to the pasta in a light sauce consistency. There should barely be any sauce pooling in the pan. It takes practice!
Frequently Asked Questions
Aglio e olio means garlic and oil, which are the base of this pasta sauce.
Oil should not be dripping off of the pasta. If so, this means that you likely used too much oil and not enough pasta water in the sauce. The pasta water releases starch and forms an emulsified sauce. Without it, you will just have oily pasta. Keep adding pasta water and stirring with the pasta and oil until it clings to the pasta in a light sauce consistency.
I find that the sauce can lack flavour if you did not salt your pasta water enough, and if you didn't add enough pasta water to the oil. No additional salt is added to the recipe so be sure to really salt that water for optimal flavour.
Classic Italian recipes like this one do not add protein directly to the pasta. Pasta is often eaten as a primi, or first course. The secondi, or second courses, often include meat, vegetables, and potatoes or bread. I recommend serving this pasta with a side of fish, chicken cutlets, veal, or meatballs.
This 10 minute pasta aglio olio e peperoncino recipe is the perfect lunch, weeknight dinner or midnight snack. With just a handful of ingredients, it sure packs big flavour. You're sure to enjoy this classic Italian dish. Buon appetito!
More Quick Dinners
- Greek chicken meatballs
- Turkey meatballs
- Air fryer trout
- Green veggie pasta sauce
- Gluten-free chicken nuggets
- Air fryer halibut
- Sausage & eggplant pasta
- Gluten-free pasta salad
- Tuscan chicken & orzo skillet
Have you made this spaghetti aglio olio e peperoncino? I'd very much appreciate it if you leave a 5-star ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review below, and tag me on instagram @fromoliviaskitchen!
Spaghetti Aglio Olio e Peperoncino
- 225 g spaghetti or any long pasta, plus salt for the cooking water.
- 3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2-4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tablespoon red chili flakes
- Chopped parsley optional
- Grated parmigiano reggiano or pecorino romano optional
- Fill a large pot with water and set to boil. Once boiling, generously salt the water and add the pasta. Cook according to package instructions, minus 1 minute.
- Once the pasta is placed in the water, begin to warm a large skillet over medium heat.
- Add the olive oil to the pan. Once hot, add the minced garlic. It should sizzle lightly for 2-3 minutes and turn a golden colour. Turn the heat down if it fries and browns too quickly.
- Add the chili flakes and toast for 1 minute. Add 1 ladle of pasta water and mix to start emulsifying.
- Once nearly cooked, use tongs to add the pasta directly from the pot. Add more chili flakes and parsley to the skillet and stir with tongs to emulsify the sauce, adding more pasta water as needed for it to glide.
- Serve in a large bowl and top with more chili flakes, parsley, and/or grated parmigiano reggiano cheese. Enjoy!
- Use gluten-free pasta if your diet requires. Be gentle as it can break if overcooked.
- Err on the side of less oil vs more oil. You don't want the pasta to be dripping in oil.
- If the garlic burns, re-start the sauce. You can't save burnt garlic.
- The starchy pasta water is essential in emulsifying the sauce! You want all of the pasta to be lightly coated so it glides and twirls, without much dripping off.