How to NOT Burn Garlic

A Useful Tip for Avoiding One of the Italian Kitchen’s Most Common Pitfalls + a Related Recipe

I know. I know. It happens to everyone. Burning garlic is nearly as common in Italian kitchens as canned tomatoes. The worst part about burning the garlic is that there is no way to undo the damage. Burnt garlic is useless and must be discarded. Not only is there a funky smell but there’s more work to do in peeling and chopping fresh garlic (all the while with figurative egg on your face from the fail).

There is a technique, though, for avoiding this kitchen catastrophe that prevents the garlic mishap while even enhancing the flavor. Here’s what you do:

Combine the garlic (minced, chopped, sliced, however) in a cold pan with olive oil.

Slowly bring the pan to heat (start at medium-low and move to medium after a minute).

Pay attention! The garlic should shimmy not shake; the aroma should be sweet not acrid; the sound should be silent not sizzling. This will not take long (i.e. Stop looking at your phone!).

At first sign of danger: Remove the pan from the heat and add some more oil.

The result is a soft, fragrant and flavorful garlic that can elevate any recipe, such as this one for Spaghetti Aglio e Olio.

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio

5 from 1 vote
Recipe by Andrew Cotto


Prep time


Cooking time




  • 1 handful 1 Kosher salt

  • 1 pound 1 dry spaghetti

  • 8 8 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1/3 cup 1/3 extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 cup 1 grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese + extra for serving

  • 1/2 teaspoon 1/2 red pepper flakes

  • 3/4 cup 3/4 fresh parsley, minced


  • Put a pot of water on to boil.
  • When boiling, add the handful of salt and the spaghetti (stir until the boil returns).
  • Combine the olive oil and garlic in a cold saute pan (large enough to hold 1 pound of pasta).
  • When the pasta is 1/2 way to al dente, warm the oil and garlic over low-to-medium heat.
  • After three minutes, add the red pepper flakes.
  • Two minutes shy of al dente, add a splash of pasta water to the pan.
  • Raise the heat slightly and allow water to reduce for 1 minute.
  • Transfer the pasta directly into the pan and coat thoroughly with the water, oil, garlic and pepper flakes.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and allow to sit for one minute, tossing occasionally.
  • Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and toss the spaghetti.
  • Add the minced parsley.
  • Serve with additional cheese.

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