Picture this: It’s 4 p.m. and you are running late for the school pick-up car line. You still have to head to soccer and swimming after getting the kids, and you have no idea what to make for dinner. Sound familiar?
After far too many of these dinner-time-dread scenarios, I smartened up and now have a rotation of meals I know I can pull off in less than 15 minutes using what’s always in my pantry.
One of my family’s favorite back-pocket dinners is spaghetti aglio e olio, a classic Neapolitan pasta that is delicious and cannot be easier to make. Traditionally it’s just spaghetti, garlic, and olive oil. The garlic infuses the oil, which coats each strand of spaghetti with robust flavor.
I’m wise enough to know that improving on a dish as outstanding as spaghetti aglio e olio is a fool’s errand, but by adding a few of my family’s favorite ingredients that I always have on hand, I’ve turned it into what I consider the perfect plate of pasta.
I’ve publicly declared my love for green olives—buttery, briny, and fruity Castelvetranos are a natural addition to this pasta. I wake up some garlic in olive oil, then add chopped olives, red pepper flakes or Calabrian chilis, fresh parsley, and a splash of wine. Toss spaghetti in the quick sauce with a little pasta water, and you have a delicious dinner that pairs perfectly with a glass of crisp white wine. What I love most: it’s a restaurant-worthy meal in less than 15 minutes and for less than 10 bucks.
How To Make Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Green Olives
Here are the ingredients you’ll need:
- 1 pound dry spaghetti
- 1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 2 Calabrian chilis, roughly chopped (or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes)
- 1/2 cup pitted and chopped Castelvetrano olives
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Salt it generously, then add the spaghetti and cook until al dente—about 2 minutes less than the package cooking time suggests—and reserve about 2 cups of the pasta water.
Meanwhile, add the oil, garlic, and chilis (or red pepper flakes) to a large skillet. Set it over low heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic becomes very fragrant and the oil bubbles gently, about 3 minutes.
Add the olives, parsley, and wine, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the drained pasta along with 1 cup of the reserved pasta water. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the pasta is cooked through and most of the pasta water has been absorbed. Add more water as needed. Finish with black pepper and a sprinkle of salt to taste.
Tips For Making My Go-To Pasta
If olives are not your thing (Please, please try the mild Castelvetranos at least once!), swap them with chopped canned artichokes or a tablespoon or two of rinsed capers for the same brininess.
The key to making the most delicious version of this recipe is to be very patient with the garlic. You want to cook it over very low heat to ensure that the garlic infuses the oil without burning. Burnt garlic is bitter, and it will ruin the sauce. Will you have garlic breath after eating this? Absolutely. Will it be worth it? Without a doubt!