Spaghetti Aglio E Olio And Calabrian Breadcrumbs Recipe

Aglio e olio translates to "garlic and oil" in Italian and is a classic spaghetti dish in Neapolitan cuisine. Like buttered noodles, aglio e olio is meant to be simple and easy to prepare with ingredients you likely have on hand. An authentic spaghetti aglio e olio only needs a few things: spaghetti, oil, garlic, and pepper. It's a humble dish that relies on high-quality ingredients. If you only have the cheapest olive oil and jarred garlic on hand, don't worry, they'll still work, but make it your goal to splurge someday. Trust us, it's worth it.

In this recipe, developer Michelle McGlinn adapts the traditional aglio e olio and transforms it into a spicy pasta with a little bit of crunch. The breadcrumb topping fits seamlessly into the easy recipe without taking away from its simplicity, all the while making it deliciously spicy with Calabrian chiles. It's good for nights when you want those silky, garlicky noodles dressed up a bit. And for the nights when you don't? Just skip the breadcrumbs and enjoy the garlic. Hey, it's a classic for a reason.

Gather the ingredients for spaghetti aglio e olio with Calabrian chile breadcrumbs

While it's common to load up this super-simple dish with toppings, you only need the basics. Grab your favorite olive oil (extra virgin if possible, since you'll likely taste the difference), a head of garlic, your favorite brand of spaghetti, and lots of salt. You're only using it to salt the pasta water, but you'll want to make sure you're using enough to enhance the dish.

From there, you'll need a jar of chopped Calabrian chiles and plain breadcrumbs. You can find the chiles in most grocery stores in the Italian section of the international aisle or next to the jarred pepperoncini and roasted red peppers, usually in an aisle full of condiments.

You can customize the toppings to your liking: We like fresh parsley for a little more freshness, but you could also add grated parmesan or a squeeze of lemon, especially to calm the spice. Those Calabrian chiles are no joke, after all.

Boil the pasta to al dente and reserve some of the water

Add two big spoonfuls of salt to the water as it comes to a boil and cook the pasta to al dente (soft, but still a little chewy). Save some of the pasta water before draining the spaghetti, reserving a little extra in case you need it later. The water will be slightly golden and cloudy from the pasta starches — this is totally normal, and is the reason we aren't just using regular tap water. That starchy liquid creates an almost-creamy sauce that sticks to each noodle. 

Toast the breadcrumbs

This is our favorite trick when serving guests because it's super simple but sounds (and tastes) super impressive. The truth is, toasting breadcrumbs only takes a few minutes, and mixing the chiles in makes a powerful difference. Simply toss the breadcrumbs and chiles into a skillet and stir well to combine. There's no need to add oil since the breadcrumbs toast better on dry heat and the chiles have oil or water on them. Whisk the breadcrumbs around and pay attention to the color changing. It can go from toasty golden to burnt brown quickly, so don't walk away. Keep whisking until the mixture feels dry and looks golden, then remove. If the mixture still feels clumpy and wet while whisking, give it another minute.

Sauté the garlic slices

Garlic and oil are the most important ingredients, so make sure you use them correctly. There are many ways to make an aglio e olio pasta; in this version, the garlic is sliced, not minced, and added to the cold oil while the skillet heats up. This gives the garlic time to infuse its flavor into the oil while slowly crisping on the edges. There should be enough oil to generously fill the bottom of the skillet, so if it evaporates while cooking, that means the heat is too high.

Finish the aglio e olio sauce

There are different techniques for finishing an aglio e olio sauce. Some cooks toss the toasted garlic and oil with the drained spaghetti, forgoing any pasta water for a strong garlic flavor. In this recipe, the pasta water is reduced with the oil into a sauce that coats the pasta for a silky finish. This also softens the garlic flavor, so the garlic will taste milder, as if it's been roasted.

This is where salting the pasta water generously comes in handy. The cloudy, reserved water will not only help the thin sauce coat the noodles but will also flavor the dish. If your water was salted enough, you shouldn't need to season any further; however, if the pasta is still too bland, you can sprinkle it with salt and pepper or add a grating of Parmesan for a more robust, salty flavor.

Serve the aglio e olio with the toasted breadcrumbs

Twirl the pasta evenly into serving bowls and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs. Start with a light sprinkling and adjust as needed — you can always add more if it isn't hot enough for you. If you love cheese on your pasta, grate fresh Parmesan or pecorino romano over the top, then sprinkle on some finely chopped parsley. You can also add an extra drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, or some freshly cracked black pepper.

This pasta is delicious when served with leafy green salads or sauteed spinach and also makes a great side dish to crispy chicken or fatty fish like salmon or sardines. Because the sauce is very light, the pasta doesn't save particularly well and is best eaten fresh. If saving leftovers, we recommend tossing the pasta with extra oil and garlic in a warm skillet to "wake up" the sauce that gets absorbed overnight.

Spaghetti Aglio E Olio And Calabrian Breadcrumbs Recipe
5 from 31 ratings
This spicy recipe for spaghetti aglio e olio with Calabrian breadcrumbs may sound complicated, but it's a cinch to whip up on a weeknight in under 20 minutes.
Prep Time
Cook Time
bowl of spaghetti with breadcrumbs
Total time: 17 minutes
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 ½ cups reserved pasta water
  • 1 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons crushed Calabrian chiles
  • 8 large cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Optional Ingredients
  • parsley, for topping
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the salt to the water. Cook the spaghetti in the salted water according to the package directions for al dente. Reserve 1 ½ cups of the pasta water, then drain.
  2. As the pasta cooks, heat the breadcrumbs and chiles in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring well to combine. Use a whisk to break up any clumps. Toast the mixture until the breadcrumbs are golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the breadcrumb mixture from the heat and gently wipe down the skillet. Add the oil and garlic slices and return the skillet to the heat. Gently heat the garlic over medium heat until golden brown, about 4-5 minutes. Stir regularly — do not allow the garlic to burn.
  4. Once the garlic is light golden brown, add 1 ¼ cups reserved pasta water to the skillet and bring it to a boil. Heat until the liquid is reduced by half and is golden-colored, about 3-4 minutes.
  5. Toss the pasta into the liquid to coat. If the pasta looks too dry, add more pasta water and toss again.
  6. To serve, sprinkle the pasta with the breadcrumb mixture. Top with parsley, if desired.
Calories per Serving 634
Total Fat 13.3 g
Saturated Fat 2.0 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 107.8 g
Dietary Fiber 5.1 g
Total Sugars 5.1 g
Sodium 590.9 mg
Protein 19.1 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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