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 2 votes
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


  • 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


  • 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.


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.

Join today and start saving your favorite recipes

Create an account to easily save your favorite projects and tutorials.

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.

Did you try this recipe?

I want to see!

Follow @wellplated on Instagram, snap a photo, and tag it #wellplated. I love to know what you are making!

Share this Article


This post contains some affiliate links, which means that I make a small commission off items you purchase at no additional cost to you.

You May Also Like

Free Email Series
5 Secrets for Cooking Tasty and Healthy
My secrets for making wholesome meals you'll WANT to eat.

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!

Learn more about Erin

Leave a Comment

Did you make this recipe?

Don't forget to leave a review!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


Leave a comment

  1. When we lived in an apartment our vacuum definitely just sat out in the open. And it drove my mom NUTS whenever she came to visit haha Which secretly made me chuckle a little each time.

    And this pasta sounds perfect – simple recipes really are the best. Especially for busy times!

    1. I think our mothers would get along, lol. I tell myself seeing the vacuum out should make me clean more regularly, but to be honest, Ben ends up doing it most of the time!

  2. I am horrible about letting things go. Or just getting too much of one thing! Like jeans and boots … I probably have at least four pairs of each and I haven’t even started my fall closet shopping. Or pumpkin puree. I have tons of that stuff! I agree, more ingredients is inherently better, right? I wouldn’t have guessed there were so few ingredients and it looks delicious. Garlic is one of my favorite savory ingredients (I add it to everything) and I always love pasta!

    1. Mary Frances, I take it back…there are some things I can’t have enough of and pumpkin puree is totally one of those! ;-)

  3. Dang – I never thought pasta with garlic, parm and olive oil could look this good!
    Your dish, my friend, is a great example of “less is more” – simple can be so underrated :)

  4. I remember our apartment days so well. I think we crammed every cranny of that place! Now that we have a bigger space, I’m noticing that we’re quickly filling that too. I don’t want to get in the habit of just filling space because it’s there. After all, sometimes having less is so FREEING! I can already tell I would love this dish. It’s amazing what really good olive oil and Parmesan can do. And quick roasting? I never even knew you could do that! Love that idea!

    1. Thanks so much Courtney! And even though I do like the restraint my apartment forces me to exercise (most of the time) I cannot wait to have a big girl closet!

  5. Keeping it simple is the best way, even when you have room/time for more! Love the flavors in this dish!

  6. I cannot believe that such a short list of ingredients makes this fabulous dish! Olive oil and parmesan? I’m so so in ;-)

  7. I’ve never had roasted garlic before, but I love the idea of cooking it in olive oil. I’d use gluten free pasta, but this one looks like a keeper! Simple with a short list is my kind of cooking!

  8. Quick roasted garlic…I can’t wait to try this! It seems like it could quickly become my secret ingredient. This simple pasta looks delicious Erin. Thank you for sharing it!

  9. AHHHH DAMNIT YES. Ok, I just had to toss out a hunk of parm yesterday because it went all wonky, lonely and forgotten in the back of the fridge (shame on me!) and thought, “Now, how do I make this last longer?” You just answered my question. Food processor + container. I bet it would stay well in the freezer, too. Also, quick roasted garlic? You are literally solving all of the problems of the world today.

  10. This pasta dish looks incredible! I love the sound of roasted garlic in here, it really kicks this simple dish up to stardom level. Thanks so much for sharing :)

  11. An easy way to peel garlic-cut a small piece off the end of the clove, then microwave about 1o-15 seconds and the peel will come right off!

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

  13. 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!

  14. 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!

  15. 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

  16. 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