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Penne Aglio e Olio Recipe

This penne aglio e olio is an easy twist on a classic pasta dish. Serve it as a simple side dish for chicken or as dinner for meatless Monday!

close up photo of penne agilo e olio

Like most of the world, I am on a quest to eat healthier (at least in January haha). I’m also on a quest to spend less time cooking dinner at night.

Wouldn’t it be nice to just relax after work.

So on my quick recipe journey, I went to pasta. It’s always my go-to quick meal ingredient.

A few ingredients later, I had unknowingly made pasta aglio e olio but with penne instead of spaghetti. 

And boom, my new go-to quick and semi-healthy weeknight dinner.

What is “Aglio e Olio”?

Aglio e Olio means “garlic and oil.” 

Traditionally, pasta aglio e olio is served with spaghetti noodles – spaghetti Aglio e olio is a traditional Italian pasta dish from Naples. 

I, however, do not care for spaghetti.

penne aglio e olio on a marble table

Penne Aglio Olio Ingredients

Penne – Penne is the classic pasta shape used in this dish. It has a hollow tube with angled cuts at the ends, perfect for holding sauce.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Extra virgin olive oil is a fundamental component of this recipe, providing a rich and fruity flavor that forms the base of the sauce. ** Higher quality olive oil = better flavor **

Minced Garlic – Minced garlic adds a robust and aromatic element to the sauce. It infuses the olive oil with its pungent and savory flavor, giving the dish its characteristic taste.

Crushed Red Pepper Flakes – Crushed red pepper adds a kick of heat to the dish. The level of spiciness can be adjusted to your preference.

Fresh Parsley – Fresh parsley, when chopped, provides a bright and herbaceous contrast to the richness of the olive oil and garlic. It adds freshness and color to the dish.

Lemon Zest – Lemon zest, finely grated lemon peel, is a finishing touch that brightens the dish with a hint of citrusy aroma and flavor. It adds a refreshing and zesty note.

Can I use pasta other than penne?

Yep! These are great substitutions:

  • rigatoni
  • spaghetti
  • rotini
  • linguine
penne agio e olio and a blue napkin

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How to Make Penne Aglio e Olio

Begin by preparing the penne noodles according to the instructions on the box.

This typically involves boiling them in a pot of generously salted water until they reach the desired level of doneness.

However, remember to reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water just before draining. This reserved pasta water is crucial to help create a silky and cohesive sauce later.

While the penne noodles cook, take a large skillet and heat the extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. As the oil warms, add the minced garlic to the skillet.

Sauté the garlic for approximately 2 minutes, stirring frequently. When you notice the edges of the garlic turning a lovely golden brown, it’s time to introduce the crushed red pepper.

Scroll down to see the full recipe below!

Continue sautéing for 30 seconds. Then add the reserved pasta water to the skillet and gradually bring the mixture to a gentle boil.

Allowing it to simmer for about 5 minutes allows the flavors to meld and the sauce to reduce slightly, intensifying its taste.

Add the cooked and drained penne noodles directly to the skillet with the sauce simmering. Toss the pasta carefully in the flavorful sauce, ensuring that each piece of pasta is coated evenly.

This step allows the pasta to absorb the delicious garlic-infused olive oil and red pepper flavors. Stir in the kosher salt and the diced fresh parsley.

Allow the pasta to rest off the heat for an additional 5 minutes. When it’s time to serve, top each portion of Penne Aglio Olio with freshly grated lemon zest.

pasta aglio e olio on a marble table with a blue napkin

What can I add to this easy pasta recipe?

The world is your oyster. Like with my chicken tagliatelle recipe, you can add anything.


  • Shrimp
  • Chicken
  • Sausage
  • Bacon
  • Tofu


  • Mushrooms
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Spinach
  • Zucchini
  • Bell Peppers
  • Asparagus
  • Artichoke Hearts
penne aglio e olio pinterest image

Additional Ingredient Options

Parmesan Cheese – Grated Parmesan cheese can be sprinkled over the finished dish for a rich and nutty flavor.

Kalamata Olives – Sliced Kalamata olives bring a briny and salty element to the pasta.

Capers – Capers, when added sparingly, contribute a tangy and slightly piquant flavor that pairs well with the garlic and olive oil.

Anchovies – For a deep umami flavor, you can finely chop or mash a few anchovy fillets and sauté them with the garlic.

Lemon Juice – A squeeze of fresh lemon juice just before serving can brighten the dish and add a zesty and citrusy kick.

Pine Nuts – Toasted pine nuts provide a delicate crunch and a subtle nutty flavor that complements the pasta’s richness.

Roasted Garlic – Roasting garlic cloves in the oven and then mashing them into a paste can give your Aglio e Olio a milder, sweeter garlic flavor.

Can I make this aglio e olio recipe spicy?

You can make this recipe spicy with an addition or too.

You can add more crushed red pepper flakes slowly until you get to the spiciness level you’re looking for.

A ¼ cup of finely diced jalapeño would easily give this dish a kick. 

Looking for other pasta and dinner recipes? Try these:

close up photo of penne agilo e olio

Penne Aglio e Olio

This penne aglio e olio is an easy twist on a classic pasta dish. Serve it as a simple side dish for chicken or as dinner for meatless Monday!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Course: Dinner | Lunch
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 6
Calories: 447.2kcal


  • 1 pound penne uncooked
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic approximately 6 cloves
  • ½ tablespoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup diced fresh parsley
  • lemon zest


  • Prepare the penne noodles per the box instructions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water before draining.
  • While the noodles are cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Stir frequently and when the garlic's edges begin to brown, add the crushed red pepper. Sauté for an additional 30 seconds. Add the reserved pasta water and bring to a boil.
  • Simmer for 5 minutes, then add the cooked pasta to the pot. Toss carefully, then stir in the salt and parsley. Allow to rest for an additional 5 minutes off the heat before serving.
  • When serving, top with fresh lemon zest.



Calories: 447.2kcal | Carbohydrates: 58g | Protein: 10.3g | Fat: 19.3g | Saturated Fat: 2.7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2.4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 13.3g | Sodium: 406.7mg | Potassium: 220.2mg | Fiber: 2.9g | Sugar: 2.1g | Vitamin A: 619.1IU | Vitamin C: 7.5mg | Calcium: 30.2mg | Iron: 1.6mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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4.55 from 83 votes (83 ratings without comment)
Recipe Rating


Wednesday 7th of December 2022

I just made this and added jalapeno. It was good. Had it with cod fish and shrimp scampi and carrots.


Monday 26th of August 2019

Making tonight! Thanks for the share!

Mary Jo

Monday 1st of April 2019

I Love this with asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes. I had it once in a restaurant years ago and have been making it ever since.


Wednesday 24th of January 2018

I omitted garlic. Added onion, red pepper, steamed broccoli, squeezed in 1/4 of a lemon's juice right at the end. Finished with grated parm cheese. Delicious!

Carol, The Red Painted Cottage

Wednesday 16th of August 2017

Jenny, Just letting you know this yummy recipe is being featured at Share Your Style! Congratulations!


Thursday 17th of August 2017

Thank you Carol!!