Quick Garlic Pasta with Olive Oil and Parmesan 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 green plate topped with Parmesan cheese

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.” As much as I would love to treat myself a Madeleine pan or popsicle mold or adorable cake stands in assorted sizes, I must be honest with myself about the fact that our lone closet is already bursting with winter coats, laundry detergent, and wrapping paper. The vacuum cleaner? Forget it—that beast sits out in the open.

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.

Garlic pasta in a red baking dish and served on a green plate

Quick Garlic Pasta with Olive Oil and Parmesan is my final installment in this month’s Quick and Easy Recipe Series. 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 measuring cup of olive oil, fresh herbs, garlic, and Parmesan

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 love the freshness and fruitiness of California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and 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.

A green plate with pasta next to a bottle of white wine

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.)

I have loved creating every single one of these Quick and Easy Recipes. This collection of simple, flavorful dishes is the proof that you don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen to enjoy a gourmet meal. Check ‘em out to add some easy luxury to your weeknight menu:

Garlic pasta on a green plate with Parmesan

Quick Garlic Pasta with Olive Oil and Parmesan

5 from 1 vote
This easy pasta dish bursts with flavor, thanks to a quick-roasted garlic, olive oil and parmesan sauce. Fast enough for a weeknight, special enough for a party.

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 extra virgin olive oil plus 2 tablespoons, 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 upper third of 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.
  • 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 remaining water, then set pasta aside, tossing it with a bit of olive oil to prevent noodles from sticking.
  • When 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 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

Time-saving tips: 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. To quickly grate Parmesan: Cut the 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.

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This recipe was created by me on behalf of California Olive Ranch. California Olive Ranch compensated me for my time to develop and photograph this recipe and provided product for my personal use. All opinions are, as always, my own.

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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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39 Comments

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  1. I make almost the exact same pasta but use lightly sauteed garlic – next time I will use roasted garlic! This looks delicious!

  2. 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!

  3. 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

  4. 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

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