Aglio e olio is a classic Italian dish that’s easy to prepare with pantry essentials. We take it up a notch with togarashi and Thai basil.
Pasta aglio e olio with togarashi is a fusion dish between Italian and Japanese flavors, and I use Thai basil to help bring them together seamlessly. It’s filling and flavorful, and is in our usual meal rotation because it’s so darn good.
Pasta aglio e olio is amazing and one of my most favourite meals for a lot of reasons:
- It’s super cheap to make
- It’s one of the quickest “from scratch” meals you can prepare
- It’s incredibly filling to eat
- It’s absolutely delicious
- It’s naturally dairy-free and vegan
- It’s all made in one pan, so cleanup is a breeze!
What is pasta aglio e olio?
Pasta (or spaghetti) aglio e olio is simply pasta tossed with garlic (aglio) which has been lightly fried in olive oil (olio). Sometimes it’s served with parmesan, but usually not. It originates from the Naples area in Italy and became hugely popular since all of the ingredients have a really long shelf life. And because it’s darn delicious.
There’s another version of pasta aglio e olio called pasta aglio, olio e peperoncino which is technically what this recipe is, because peperoncino means pepper! And it’s plain ole aglio e olio with the addition of red pepper flakes. And guess what togarashi is?
What is togarashi seasoning?
Togarashi seasoning is a blend of spices that was invented in Japan as far back as the 1600s. It’s also called shichi-mi tōgarashi or nana-iro tōgarashi, or just simply as shichimi (seven spice) or togarashi (which means chili pepper in Japanese).
A typical togarashi seasoning blend contains:
- Red pepper flakes
- Ground Japanese pepper
- Orange or yuzu peel
- Black and white sesame seeds
- Nori (seaweed flakes)
- Poppy seeds
- Hemp seeds
There is also another type of togarashi called ichi-mi tōgarashi that only has ground red chili pepper instead of the combination of red and Japanese peppers. It’s literally called “one-flavor chili pepper” for obvious reasons (ichi means one while shichi and nana both mean seven).
What does togarashi taste like?
Togarashi tastes like everything bagel seasoning, orange pepper, and red chili flakes all had a baby together.
It’s spicy (though not overpowering) and nutty with bright citrusy notes, salty umami, and a lingering warmth that is pleasing to both the palate and the body.
This is one of those spice mixes that when you eat it, you breath in really deep, close your eyes, and exhale slowly. And it just makes you smile.
It’s also crunchy, which is absolutely lovely.
What can I substitute for togarashi if I can’t find it?
If you can’t find togarashi, I would mix the three spices I mentioned above: orange pepper, everything bagel, and red chili flakes. It won’t be the same (of course) but you’ll hit at least most of the flavor marks.
If you can’t do sesame, just skip the everything bagel and add some poppy seeds instead (if safe).
Why Thai basil in aglio e olio with togarashi?
I LOVE Thai basil! It’s spicier than its Italian counterpart and has notes of anise. It’s also growing plentifully on my front patio. Because of the slight differences in flavor from Genovese (classic) basil, I find that it marries the Italian with the Japanese in this recipe really well.
Of course, if you can’t find or don’t like Thai basil, you can always use your go to basil. Don’t like basil at all? You can substitute it with chopped parsley instead.
Can I make this gluten-free or low carb?
Yes, you can!!
For gluten-free spaghetti options, my favorites are Barilla in first place, then Tinkyada organic brown rice, and H-E-B. Ronzoni will work in a pinch but tends to get.. weird in oil-based sauces. Just try not to toss it too much.
The pasta in my photos is actually Barilla brand gluten-free spaghetti.
For a low carb/keto version of this dish, toss it with spaghetti squash instead! This is also gluten-free, and while not totally authentic, it’s still super delicious. I don’t recommend trying to make it with shirataki but that may just be a personal preference. If you love shirataki pastas, then go for it!
A note on olive oils:
Not all olive oils are created equal!
In fact, a vast majority of the olive oils sold in the United States aren’t even olive oil. Nearly all of the bottles that make it over here from Italy have actually been filled with cheaper oils like peanut or soy and colored with chlorophyll thanks to the mafia. Yes, the mafia.
It sounds like something from a mobster movie, but it’s one of the main ways that money gets laundered by organized crime over there. It’s a pretty big concern especially for people who are sensitive enough to peanuts and soy that they react to the oils.
Because of that, you definitely want to do your research when buying your EVOO. I use Terra Delyssa because it’s from Tunisia where they don’t have such problems. It’s also super delicious and wallet-friendly!
Other options are Californian and Greek olive oils, which have lovely flavor profiles of their own.
Thanks for stopping by!
I hope you love this pasta dish as much as my family and I do. If you make it, be sure to tag me on Facebook or Instagram @cookingoncaffeine!
May you and your coffee both be strong,
- 1 lb (500g) dry spaghetti
- 4-6 quarts (1-1.5 gallons, 3.75-5.5 liters) water (filtered is best)
- 1-1.5 tbsp salt (depending on how much water you use)
- 1/2 c good olive oil
- 5 teaspoons minced garlic OR 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 3/4 tsp togarashi seasoning (or 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes if you can't find it)
- 1/2-1/3 cup fresh Thai basil, rough chopped or chiffonade
- Salt to taste
- Parmesan to garnish, if desired
1. Prepare your spaghetti to al dente according to package instructions in 6 qts of water with 1.5 tbsps of salt added.
2. Once al dente, drain your spaghetti and reserve a cup of the pasta water if you want your finished pasta aglio e olio to be saucy.
3. Return the empty pan to the stove over medium heat and immediately add the olive oil.
4. Add the minced or sliced garlic and stir constantly until it starts to turn golden brown (this will happen fast, so don't walk away!)
5. Once the garlic starts to turn golden brown, add your togarashi and stir well.
5b. If you're going for a saucy pasta, carefully add your reserved pasta water at this point, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until it's the consistency you want.
6. Take the pan off the heat and add in your spaghetti and basil, tossing well to completely coat the pasta in garlicky olive oil and evenly distributing the basil.
7. Taste test and toss in some more salt if needed.
7. Serve and garnish with a sprinkle of togarashi and parmesan if desired.
If you're using gluten-free pasta, it's important to not overcook it and to use a brand that holds together well. If it's soggy or falls apart, you'll get a mushy mess instead of a delicious dinner.
My favorite brands of gluten-free spaghetti are Barilla, Tinkyada organic brown rice, and H-E-B. Ronzoni will work in a pinch.
This is also delicious with spaghetti squash for a lower carb version.