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spaghetti aglio e olio

Sometimes the best recipes are also the most simple, like this rustic Italian dish that uses just eight basic ingredients that might be in your kitchen right now. We searched for years trying to get the flavor and texture right, so we were thrilled to find this delicious pasta that turned out to be better than some dishes from our favorite restaurants. In the past, our spaghetti aglio e olio (“garlic and oil” in Italian) would turn out bland and boring no matter what we did. But we learned some simple tricks that make these noodles some of the most flavorful we have ever tasted.

This recipe calls for a unique combination of both sautéed garlic, as well as a heaping scoop of raw garlic that gives it a sharp boldness which blends perfectly with the vibrant parsley and tangy lemon. A pinch of red pepper flakes adds a touch of heat and a splash of color to this simple and satisfying classic. Finding a good spaghetti will also help improve the texture and flavor. We noticed several other recipes specifically using De Cecco, so we did a few tests at home and found their recommendations to be accurate, as other brands seemed rather bland and not as firm. Also, the water for the pasta is just as important as everything else, so we measure it with the salt, use a big pot and stir it often, ensuring consistent noodles every time. And actually, the cooking water is the other secret ingredient. Tossing it with the finished pasta helps bind the sauce and noodles, making sure that every bite is filled with fresh lemon and garlic deliciousness.

This is an ideal mid-week dinner, as everything comes together so quickly. The sauce literally cooks in just three minutes, and is then set aside. Once the spaghetti is finished cooking, it is simply tossed into the sauce, and you’re done. Every time we make this, we are so impressed with how flavorful it is, especially since the ingredients are so minimal. This dinner is a pleasure to make and satisfies all the senses. The enticing aromas of sizzling garlic, chopped parsley, and freshly squeezed lemon will turn your typical Wednesday night dinner into a fun and elegant gourmet experience. Mints not included.

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
serves 4 to 6

1 pound spaghetti
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 tablespoons chopped garlic, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons), or to taste

Fill a large pot with 5 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon of salt, and bring to a boil. When boiling, add the spaghetti and cook until al dente according to package directions.

While the pasta is cooking, place a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 3 tablespoons of the chopped garlic, and the salt and black pepper. Sauté the garlic until it sizzles and just begins to turn golden, about 2 to 3 minutes, then turn off heat and stir in the remaining tablespoon of chopped garlic, the red pepper flakes, parsley, lemon juice, and two tablespoons of the pasta cooking water. Stir well to combine, and set aside.

One the pasta is done, save 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta. Place the drained spaghetti in the skillet, and also add the reserved cooking water and the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss well to combine, and taste for seasonings if needed. Serve hot, with parmesan cheese at the table if desired, and enjoy!