This quick Garlic Pasta made with olive oil and Parmesan cheese is a beautiful reminder that I don’t need nearly the number of things to be happy as I allow myself to believe. From four main ingredients—fresh garlic, olive oil, Parmesan, and spaghetti noodles—we can create an extraordinarily flavorful dish, lacking in nothing and satisfying everything our pasta-loving hearts desire.

garlic pasta on a gray plate with a fork topped with parmesan

Sharing in a tiny (550 square feet) apartment with another human being has taught me simplicity. For every new purchase that comes home, something else must be given away. Long gone are the days of holding onto old things “just in case.”

I often fall for the easy logic that more is more. Why own one good black dress when you can have two, or a single set of wine glasses where there’s space for three? Confession time: I’m the guilty proprietor of five pairs of boots, my greatest shopping weakness (so long as we’re not counting salted caramels and cheese.)

The same more is more logic can be applied to cooking—isn’t a dish with more ingredients inherently better than a dish with fewer? Quick Garlic Pasta with Olive Oil and Parmesan heartily disagrees, and I am betting my last salted caramel that, after just one bite, you will disagree too.

a plate of olive oil and garlic pasta garnished with red pepper flakes and herbs

My personal twist on the classic Italian spaghetti aglio e olio or “midnight spaghetti, Quick Garlic Pasta with Olive Oil and Parmesan transforms four simple ingredients into a robustly flavored, satisfying dish.

It simultaneously bursts with flavor and celebrates simplicity.

a plate of spicy garlic pasta with olive oil, parmesan, and red pepper flakes

The trick to this pasta’s speed and its rich flavor is quick roasted garlic.

I adore roasted garlic but seldom have the patience to wait the full hour it takes to soften and caramelize in the oven when roasted whole.

My trick: peel and separate the cloves, toss them with a bit of olive oil, pop them in a high-heat oven and, boom!

Lovely, rich roasted garlic, ready in 15 minutes flat.

From here, we now need our other to flavor factors: extra virgin olive oil and Parmesan.

Choose wisely here. Because Quick Garlic Pasta with Olive Oil and Parmesan has so few ingredients, each one is important.

I grate my Parmesan straight off the block—this is no place for the stuff in the green can.

I purchased the least expensive Parmesan at Trader Joe’s, grated up the whole shebang in the food processor, then transferred it to an airtight container where it will keep in the fridge months (not that we’ll be waiting that long).

When handled this way, the price difference between “green can” Parmesan and real Parmesan is minimal and the quality difference is exponential, even if like me, you purchase the store brand.

garlic pasta with parmesan and olive oil on a plate with a fork garnished with fresh herbs

Let’s count: Good olive oil, roasted garlic, Parmesan, and pasta noodles.

What else in life could we need? (Besides five pairs of boots that is.)

a plate of spicy garlic pasta with olive oil, parmesan, and red pepper flakes

Garlic Pasta

5 from 2 votes
This quick and easy garlic pasta with Parmesan and red pepper flakes is bursting with roasted garlic flavor and made with simple ingredients.

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 25 mins
Total: 35 mins

Servings: 4 – 6 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 20-25 cloves garlic peeled (1 large head)
  • 1/3 cup, plus 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil divided
  • 13 ounces dried whole wheat spaghetti 
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt plus 2 teaspoons, divided
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese divided, plus additional for serving.
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup freshly chopped parsley

Instructions
 

  • Position rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Place garlic cloves in a small, ovenproof pan and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss to coat evenly.
  • Place pan in oven and roast until garlic is light golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove promptly.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons salt and cook pasta until al dente. When the pasta is ready, reserve 1 and 1/2 cups of the pasta cooking liquid for use later in the recipe. Drain the remaining water, then set pasta aside, tossing it with a bit of olive oil to prevent noodles from sticking.
  • When the garlic has finished roasting, transfer the cloves and any oil left in the pan to a food processor or blender. Add 1/4 cup of Parmesan, then pulse a few times to combine. With the food processor or blender running, slowly pour in the remaining 1/3 cup olive oil and blend until mostly smooth.
  • Heat a skillet large enough to hold the pasta over medium. Add the garlic –olive oil mixture and red pepper flakes. Cook for 30 seconds, then add the reserved pasta cooking liquid. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and add the remaining 2 teaspoons salt. Simmer for 5 minutes, until reduced by about 1/3.
  • Add reserved pasta to the skillet and toss to coat. Remove pan from heat, add remaining 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and parsley, then toss well. Allow the mixture to rest for 5 minutes so that the noodles absorb the sauce. Serve warm topped with additional Parmesan.

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 4)Calories: 594kcalCarbohydrates: 75gProtein: 21gFat: 26gSaturated Fat: 6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 13mgPotassium: 323mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 854IUVitamin C: 15mgCalcium: 300mgIron: 4mg

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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10 Comments

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  1. It took me longer than 15 mins to roast the garlic? After 15 mins the color had not changed at all and you couldn’t smell that lovely roasted garlic smell you get with slow roasting. I just put it in for 10 minutes longer to see if the color changes

    1. Hi there! While you certainly will not get the same depth of flavor you will from slow-roasted garlic, it should still sweeten up and have a more mellow flavor than it would if you didn’t cook it at all. Thank you for trying the recipe, and I hope that you enjoy it in the end!

  2. Yum. I made this with Trafilatura el Bronza as that was what was in the cupboard.  I had a roasted boned lamb leg marinated in lemon, olive oil and fresh herbs on the side for the carnivores in the house and a balsamic roasted tomatoe and a glass of very cold NZ Sav Blanc. Heaven and totally delicious! Perfect receipe, thanks for sharing

    1. Melissa, what a feast! I’m so happy that this pasta was the perfect addition. Thank you for letting me know!

  3. This is so cool to discover something of your’s from several years ago! I was just starting to follow  you this year and am so thankful to have found this cool simple idea for pasta. I have done a similar idea to keep out the 1/2 and 1/2, butter, etc., and knew it is about the pasta, the water from cooking it held reserved, garlic, Parmesan but had sort of been “winging it” until now! Thanks so much!  The roasted garlic is a great lesson I will definitely keep in my repertoire! 5 stars

  4. Great recipe! The flavors pop, especially the roasted garlic. I’m not a huge pasta noodles fan but I will make this again! It came together quick and easy! I highly recommend.5 stars