This quick Garlic Pasta with olive oil and Parmesan is a beautiful reminder that an elegant and flavorful dinner doesn’t have to be complex or time-consuming.
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?
I also have somehow acquired more pairs of boots (my greatest shopping weakness) than anyone with just two feet should ever reasonably own at one time.
Therefore, you would think that more is more logic would also apply to cooking—isn’t a dish with more ingredients inherently better than a dish with fewer?
This simple garlic pasta recipe is a reminder that, in some cases, less truly is more.
Isn’t that the best news?
This garlic pasta recipe is my personal twist on the classic Italian spaghetti aglio e olio, a simple but soul-satisfying Italian dish of garlic (aglio), olive oil (olio), parsley, and Parmesan cheese tossed with cooked pasta.
5 Star Review
“Great recipe! The flavors pop, especially the roasted garlic. I will make this again! It came together quick and easy! I highly recommend.”— Janet —
Whenever you have a dish that celebrates simplicity, like garlic pasta, there are a few simple rules to follow to maximize flavor:
- Choose quality ingredients. With few ingredients in garlic pasta, each (pasta, olive oil, and Parmesan) is important. Don’t skimp—it makes a difference.
- Fresh is best. In many recipes, dried herbs and garlic powder can often be used interchangeably with fresh. In this garlic pasta recipe, that’s not the case. Always opt for fresh garlic and fresh parsley.
- Look for ways to enhance the natural qualities of each ingredient. With this dish, that means roasting the garlic—which somehow both amplifies and mellows the flavor of raw garlic (MAGIC!).
How to Roast Garlic Quickly
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.
Here’s my trick for quick roasted garlic—it’s the secret to this pasta’s speed and its intense flavor:
- Peel and separate the cloves.
- Toss the cloves with a bit of olive oil.
- Pop them in a high-heat oven.
- And, BOOM! Lovely, rich roasted garlic, ready in 15 minutes flat.
How to Make Garlic Pasta
If you’ve ever wondered, what can I put on pasta when I have no sauce?
These four main ingredients—fresh garlic, olive oil, Parmesan, and spaghetti noodles—are your answer for creating an extraordinarily flavorful sauce, lacking in nothing and satisfying everything pasta-loving hearts desire.
- Pasta. My favorite pasta for this recipe is whole wheat spaghetti but any variety of long-cut pasta (e.g. fettuccine, linguine, angel hair, etc.) works great here.
- Olive Oil. When choosing olive oil for this dish, select an extra virgin olive oil that you would enjoy dipping bread into versus one you might simply sauté veggies with. Again, with few ingredients here, quality matters.
- Garlic. The humble ingredient is a powerhouse in the flavor department.
- Parmesan Cheese. Stop. Drop the shredded cheese in a bag or sawdust-looking stuff in the green can. Grab a block of good Parmesan and grate it by hand. It’s a MUST.
- Parsley. Add a blast of herbaceous freshness to this simple Italian aglio e olio garlic pasta.
- Red Pepper Flakes. Bring a touch of heat that compliments the bite of the garlic and cuts through the creamy parmesan cheese.
What to Put in Garlic Pasta
One of my favorite things about garlic pasta (aside from ease and flavor) is its versatility. Ben and I often enjoy this recipe as-is, but we also love to pair it with a variety of veggies and proteins too. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Garlic Pasta with Seafood (Serve with Baked Salmon in Foil or try Garlic Shrimp Pasta).
- Garlic Pasta with Chicken (Try topping with a Grilled Chicken Breast).
- Garlic Pasta with Broccoli (adding some Roasted Broccoli would be heaven)!
- Garlic Pasta with Tomatoes (Toss in some skillet-burst cherry tomatoes).
- Toss peeled garlic cloves with olive oil in a baking dish.
- Roast until garlic is light golden brown.
- Cook pasta, reserving 1 1/2 cups of the pasta cooking liquid.
- Blend the garlic with Parmesan and olive oil.
- Simmer the garlic mixture in a skillet with the reserved pasta cooking liquid to thicken.
- Toss the drained pasta with remaining cheese and parsley. Serve warm topped with additional Parmesan. ENJOY!
A classic Italian garlic pasta, like this one, is just begging to be paired with either a sharp, dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay) or a rustic Italian red (Malbec or Zinfandel). Cheers!
- To Store. Leftovers may be stored in a container with a tight-fitting lid for up to 5 days.
- To Reheat. To reheat, warm in a nonstick skillet, covered, over medium-low heat with a splash of water. Once the pasta starts steaming, uncover, and toss until heated through. Alternatively, you may also warm in the microwave with a splash of water to rehydrate the pasta, covered, until steaming.
Meal Prep Tip
Roast the garlic ahead to make this simple dish even easier.
- Roast the garlic as direct in the recipe and then pulse in a food processor.
- Divide into an ice cube tray and freeze until solid.
- Transfer to a freezer-safe plastic bag or storage container and, voilà! perfectly portioned cubes of roasted garlic to use anytime.
- Let the roasted garlic thaw overnight in the fridge and then add to the parmesan and olive oil mixture as directed in the recipe.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Pasta Pot. For boiling oodles of al dente noodles.
- Food Processor. Makes pulsing the garlic and cheese together, a breeze.
- Baking Dish. For roasting aromatic cloves of tasty garlic.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. So long as you’re not trying to limit carbohydrates, garlic pasta is a healthy pasta dish relative to other heartier (and cheesier) options with less than 600 calories per generous serving.
In a word, no. There are so few ingredients here, every single one matters for true flavor. For garlic pasta, fresh garlic is best.
Yes. While I recommend roasted garlic for this recipe, raw garlic is sometimes used in aglio e olio-style pasta recipes for a sharper garlic flavor. For best results, slice the garlic as thinly as possible, and add to steaming to pasta immediately after draining. The hot pasta will soften the garlic and allow its flavors to release and become aromatic.
- 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
- 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.
- TO STORE: Leftovers may be stored in a container with a tight-fitting lid for up to 5 days.
- TO REHEAT: To reheat, warm in a nonstick skillet, covered, over medium-low heat with a splash of water. Once the pasta starts steaming, uncover, and toss until heated through. Alternatively, you may also warm in the microwave with a splash of water to rehydrate the pasta, covered, until steaming.
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