Home Italy Revisited Bookshelf Plays About Mary Melfi Contact Us
X Italian Pasta Dishes
spaghetti con aglio
Spaghetti all'Aglio e Olio (Spaghetti with garlic and oil)
Originated from: Casacalenda, Molise, Italy
Occasion: Every day
Contributed by: Mary Melfi (her mother's recipe)

Printer Friendly Version


Home-made spaghetti* (or 1 pound store-bought spaghetti)

For Sauce

3/4 cup olive oil
14 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 cup water (optional)
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped (optional)
1 pepperoncino [hot dried red pepper], crushed (optional)

*For recipe see "Fresh Pasta Dough Without Eggs"


o Bring large pot of water to boil.

o Chop garlic cloves.

o Cook spaghetti.

o Heat up olive oil.

o Add chopped garlic.

o Fry the chopped garlic until it is a light golden color (about 2 minutes).

o Add crushed pepperoncino (if using) and fry until garlic cloves are a nice golden color (another 2 minutes).

o Add 1/4 water (if using) to the olive oil and garlic sauce.

o When desired tenderness of spaghetti is reached, pour the spaghetti in a colander, and drain of water.

o In a large bowl, toss the drained spaghetti with half the sauce.

o Place the tossed spaghetti in individual bowls. Decorate with a touch more sauce, making sure there is enough garlic in each bowl.

o Sprinkle finely chopped fresh parsley on each dish (if using).

o Serve immediately.


This rather famous Southern Italian country dish is now known as "Spaghetti all'aglio e olio," but prior to World War II, most people just called it "spaghetti con aglio" or something like that. Back then dishes didn't have set names, if any names at all. The poor living in the countryside often dismissed the food they ate as being of no consequence, or of being no better than what they gave their pigs (Assuming, of course, they were lucky enough to have pigs!). Nowadays, cooks often add herbs such as parsley and oregano. However, prior to World War II, this dish, I believe, was kept relatively simple, at least it was in the Molise countryside. Generally, cooks did this dish when either they were in a hurry, and/or had little else on hand to flavor the spaghetti. Nonetheless, because making home-made spaghetti took a great deal of skill (No pasta-makers back then!) those cooks who could do it, took a great deal of pride in preparing this meal. In fact, many cooks (including my maternal grandmother, Nonna Seppe) often substituted tagliatelle for spaghetti as this style of pasta was much easier to do. As noted in other entries on this site, spaghetti, prior to World War II, was generally reserved for festive occasions (including Easter!), so more likely than not an egg dough would have been used for making spaghetti. However, for "spaghetti con aglio" eggs were omitted in the pasta dough.... One more thing -- nowadays few cooks add water to the tossing sauce (The sauce is much tastier without water, I believe!) but prior to World War II, most cooks did add water. For the majority of pasta dishes a lot of water was added to the tossing sauce, but not in this one (According to my mother). Anyway, for this dish to taste really good, the garlic has to be fried to a perfect golden color (If it burns, the dish is inedible!). Also, using home-made spaghetti over store-bought spaghetti will definitely turn this "simple" dish into a great-tasting one. Photo: Mary Melfi.

Back to main list