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.

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

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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?

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

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 (like this Ricotta Pasta), 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 garlicit’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.
a plate of spicy garlic pasta with olive oil, parmesan, and red pepper flakes

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.


The Ingredients

  • 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.

Salt Your Pasta Water

While it is boiling is the only time flavor can get into the pasta, and it makes all the difference in the word.

Think salty like the sea. It’s hard to overdo it.

  • 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.

How to Quickly Peel Garlic

To quickly peel garlic, separate the cloves, leaving the peels on. Place clove on a cutting board, lay the flat side of a chef’s on top of the clove, then carefully hit the flat side of your knife with your hand. The pressure will loosen the skin, making it easy to peel away. Do not worry if you partially crust the garlic. 

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

How to Quickly Grate Parmesan

To quickly grate Parmesan, cut a wedge of cheese into large chunks, then place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse several times until grated.

  • 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:

The Directions

garlic cloves in a pan with olive oil for roasting
  1. Toss peeled garlic cloves with olive oil in a baking dish.
whole cloves of roasted garlic in a baking dish with olive oil
  1. Roast until garlic is light golden brown.
  2. Cook pasta, reserving 1 1/2 cups of the pasta cooking liquid.
parmesan cheese, olive oil, and roasted garlic in a food processor
  1. Blend the garlic with Parmesan and olive oil.
  1. Simmer the garlic mixture in a skillet with the reserved pasta cooking liquid to thicken.
a large pot of cooked garlic pasta with parmesan, herbs, red pepper flakes, and a pair of tongs
  1. Toss the drained pasta with remaining cheese and parsley. Serve warm topped with additional Parmesan. ENJOY!

Wine Pairing

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!

Storage Tips

  • 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.

  1. Roast the garlic as direct in the recipe and then pulse in a food processor.
  2. Divide into an ice cube tray and freeze until solid.
  3. Transfer to a freezer-safe plastic bag or storage container and, voilà! perfectly portioned cubes of roasted garlic to use anytime.
  4. Let the roasted garlic thaw overnight in the fridge and then add to the parmesan and olive oil mixture as directed in the recipe.

What to Serve with Garlic Pasta

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.

The Best Food Processor

This 13-cup food processor has an easy blade locking system and parts that are all dishwasher-safe. One of the most versatile tools for your kitchen!

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

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Let me know what you thought!

Leave a rating below in the comments and let me know how you liked the recipe.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Garlic Pasta Healthy?

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.

Can I Use Roasted Garlic Powder or Granulated Garlic Instead of Fresh?

In a word, no. There are so few ingredients here, every single one matters for true flavor. For garlic pasta, fresh garlic is best.

Can You Put Raw Garlic in Pasta?

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.

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

Garlic Pasta

5 from 5 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.

Notes

  • 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.

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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  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

  5. will be making this tomorrow can i use cashews as am a vegan i never had garlic pasta before i love pasta soooooooooooooooooo much perfect for my after office meals sorry i took a break from commenting on your recipes as busy with work also i give your cookbook to my swimming teacher will dm you if i make this and let you know how it goes Thanks Ramya

  6. This looks amazing! Can’t wait to try it! Also, random question . . .where did you get that gray bowl/dish? I love it!

    1. Hi Jodi! I don’t think this one is available anymore, but Crate and Barrel has dishware that is quite similar.

  7. have not tried, but will; thank you so much for sharing 5-Star rating sounds PERFECT and I love pasta thanks again :)5 stars

  8. Brilliant tip for getting quickly roasted garlic, Erin. Thank you! I try to remember to add an aluminum foil-wrapped bulb of garlic to the oven when I am roasting something else, but it never really happens. This is a game changer!5 stars