Aglio E Olio Is As Simple As Neapolitan Pasta Can Get

We've all been there, so there is no shame in admitting it. It's that moment when you're staring blankly into your pantry, waiting for inspiration to strike. You're on edge because there was traffic on the way home from work and little Johnny needs to be at karate in half an hour. You need something simple, tasty, and, above all, fast. You need a pantry meal, something whipped together with what you have available to use. It is a common occurrence that happens to every home cook, albeit more often than some of us care to admit.

It's times like these when the wisdom of the Italians comes to our aid. If you're a devotee of Italian food, then you must have olive oil, dried pasta, and garlic on hand. These are staples of any well-stocked, Italian-minded pantry, according to Gourmet Traveler. If you have these ingredients in your home pantry, then there is an incredibly simple pantry pasta dish that you can put together in a jiffy: pasta aglio e olio, pasta with garlic and oil. This dish is as pure Italian as you can get. It's a pasta that, when done right, bursts with a sweet, garlicky flavor. Any pantry skimmer worth their stock should know how to make aglio e olio for its simplicity, efficiency, and adaptability.

Thanks to the Neapolitans

There is some debate over this, as aglio e olio pasta can be found on kitchen tables across Italy, but according to The Dickinson Press, it is generally believed to have originated in the city of Naples. Naples is, of course, famous for giving us pizza, but aglio e olio is representative of another side of Italian cooking called cucina povera. This way of "poor cooking" emphasizes no waste, simplicity, and affordability, per Eataly. And there is nothing quite as simple as mixing together pasta with garlic and olive oil.

As simple as this dish appears on paper, it can be a little tricky to get right from the outset. You want to ensure that you're getting the sweeter side of the garlicky flavor, not the crisp, toasted side, per Cook's Illustrated. This can be achieved by ensuring uniformity in the garlic pieces — for which a garlic press works best — and cooking them over low heat, submerged in plenty of olive oil. And while you could use other pasta varieties to make this meal, longer pasta like spaghetti, linguine, or fettuccine work best. This pasta can easily serve multiple purposes, either as a first course/light dinner or as a base for another pasta dish. Recipes will call for adding red pepper flakes or parsley to add a little heat and freshness, per Dickinson Press, but all you need for this is the oil and garlic. And a little cheese. Cheese always helps.