Spaghetti Aglio e Olio With Thyme

A dish truly greater than the sum of its parts, Aglio e Olio, which means garlic (aglio) and (e) olive oil (olio) in Italian, features simple and fresh flavors that create a dish that truly stands out.  This traditional pasta dish from the southern Italian city of Naples consists of sauteed garlic in olive oil tossed with various pasta like fettuccine, linguini, and spaghetti.  Various recipes often add other ingredients like anchovies and red pepper flakes.  While our version uses Parmesan cheese, most Italians believe this addition is unnecessary.  Either way, this recipe’s simplicity and preparation time provide a nice addition to any busy cook’s repertoire.

Aglio e Olio is the first step in cooking many pasta sauces.  While an Italian staple, aglio e olio is much like a French mother sauce, serving as a base for many recipes.  For example, sauces like alle vongole, arrabbiata, marinara, pesto (an uncooked base of a puree of garlic suspended in oil), and puttanesca begin by cooking garlic in oil.

Start the recipe by gently cooking garlic in a skillet with olive oil until it reaches a light golden color.  Some cooks vary the dish by adding a pinch of red pepper flakes, changing the sauce into aglio, olio, e peperoncino, which adds a pleasant heat without challenging the base flavor.  As the garlic sizzles, boil the pasta in a separate pot of salted water (1% or one tablespoon per quart/liter of water).

Just before the pasta reaches al dente, move it to the skillet containing the garlic and oil while adding a few tablespoons of the pasta water.  Cook this mixture together over high heat while stirring and tossing the mixture to emulsify the oil with the starchy pasta water.  Reduce the sauce to a creamy coating on the noddles to complete the dish.  At this point, add the grated cheese and a bit of minced parsley.  We also encourage you to try the recipe without the grated cheese for a traditional interpretation.  In the event you over reduce the sauce or it becomes more oily than you prefer, just add a bit more pasta water.  Finally, a drizzle of olive oil reintroduces an uncooked, fruity flavor.

Spaghetti Aglio Olio With Thyme

Spaghetti Aglio Olio With Thyme
Quick and easy lunch recipe
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Course Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 2


  • One large pot
  • Frying pan
  • Garlic Mincer
  • Strainer


  • ½ packaging of spaghetti
  • 1 gallon of water
  • 3 tbsp sea salt
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • salt & pepper to the taste


Cooking the pasta

  • In a large pot, bring one gallon of water to boil. Add three tablespoons of salt and one tablespoon of olive oil to the water.
  • When the water reaches the boiling temperature, add the spaghetti and cook for about ten minutes until al dente. Strain.

The Aglio Oglio Sauce

  • Heat the frying pan to medium-high temperature. Add two tablespoons of olive oil.
  • Skin the garlic cloves and press them through the mincer. Add fresh thyme leaves, red pepper flakes, about one teaspoon of salt and pepper. Sautee until the garlic starts to brown.
  • Reduce the temperature to low. Add cooked spaghetti to the frying pan and cover them with the garlic sauce. Add one cup of Parmesan cheese, turn off the stove and serve. You can add more salt if you like.
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