Classic and simple spaghetti with olive oil and garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, parsley, Parmesan and a touch of lemon juice and zest.
There are lots of reasons to love this simple spaghetti with olive oil and garlic. It is a has only a few simple ingredients, yet it’s full of flavour. It incredibly quick and easy to make, but creates an incredibly satisfying dish. And finally, this is perhaps the ultimate pantry meal – a dish you can make when you think you don’t have anything in the house to make a dinner. Just add a salad, a veg or maybe some wilted greens and enjoy!
Ingredients and Substitutions
Spaghetti – I’ve used spaghetti here, but you can use any pasta you like here. Use your favourite or what you have on hand.
Olive Oil – Bust out your best extra virgin olive oil for this dish, which is all about the olive oil.
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes – Adjust the amount of red pepper flakes to your taste. As written, the recipe is minimum. It doesn’t produce a spicy pasta, just a little note of that here and there. Add more, as you like.
Garlic – You can also add more garlic, if you like. Just be sure that you slice the garlic, rather than chop or mince. The large slices are not a prone to burning and introducing a bitter flavour to the dish.
Lemon Juice and Zest – The lemon in this dish isn’t over-powering, but again, just a note of lemon flavour. If you are in the mood for more lemon flavour, simply add a bit more. (I like to serve this with a lemon wedge, to provide the option at serving). That said, if you find yourself with everything except the lemon, you can omit and still enjoy a delicious dish.
Parmesan – Again, bust out your best or favourite Parmesan cheese for this dish.
Parsley – Adding some parsley for colour and flavour is always nice. I’ve used flat-leaf Italian parsley here. Curly is fine, too. Or if you like, try a little finely chopped spinach or other green that will wilt up quickly.
Butter (optional) – I can’t resist a bit of butter at the end of making this dish, however, it’s completely optional. Omit if you prefer or for a vegan dish.
To start this easy pasta dish, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously and add your pasta. Then, start the sauce by heating the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until garlic is tender (or cook it a bit longer, until it starts to colour, for a roasted garlic flavour). Remove the skillet from the heat and add the lemon juice. Set aside until the pasta is ready.
When the pasta is ready, return the skillet to the heat over medium heat. Use tongs to add the pasta to the skillet and toss to combine. Add the chopped parsley, lemon zest, Parmesan cheese and butter, if using. Toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, garnished with more shredded cheese, extra red pepper flakes, if you like, and a lemon wedge, for drizzling.
Cook’s Notes and Variations
- You can change the flavour profile of this dish with one simple step – simply fry the garlic longer. If you fry the garlic until it starts to colour, you will introduce the flavour of roasted garlic to this pasta. So if you love roasted garlic flavour, definitely give that a try. One warning though, is to only fry it until it starts to colour, then add the lemon juice. That process and the residual heat from the pan will darken the garlic further. If you wait too long though, your garlic may scorch and introduce a bitter flavour, which isn’t a pleasant one.
- Note that this recipe will make about 3-ish servings, but you can easily double or triple to feed more. Also, since the pasta is olive-oil coated, leftovers keep really well in the fridge and can be enjoyed later or re-purposed into a pasta salad or other pasta dish (just add tomatoes and make it a different delicious dish).
- This simple pasta can is a great on its own, but you can switch it up with a splash of heavy cream at the end, for a creamy pasta or stir in a couple spoonfuls of pesto instead. Just be sure to add the pesto with the skillet off the heat, at the very end, as the heat will turn it dark.
- Don’t forget seasoning this dish at the end of cooking with salt and freshly ground pepper, to really round out the flavours.
Get the Recipe: Spaghetti with Olive Oil and Garlic
- 6 oz spaghetti, or other pasta
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, heaped, plus more, to taste
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 cup Italian flat-leafed parsley, chopped
- 1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 Tablespoon salted butter, optional
- Boil a large pot of water for the pasta. Salt generously and cook pasta until al dente.
- Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until garlic is tender and fragrant. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the lemon juice. Stir to combine and set aside until the pasta is ready. (*Note: you can also cook the garlic longer, until it just starts to colour, for a more roasted garlic flavour to the dish).
- When pasta is ready, return the skillet to the heat over medium heat. Use tongs to remove the cooked pasta to the skillet and toss to combine with the olive oil mixture. Add the parsley, Parmesan, lemon zest and butter, if using, and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Serve immediately with additional Parmesan, red pepper flakes and a lemon wedge, for drizzling, if you like.
Hi! I’m Jennifer, a home cook schooled by trial and error and almost 40 years of getting dinner on the table! I love to share my favourite recipes, both old and new, together with lots of tips and tricks to hopefully help make your home cooking enjoyable, stress free, rewarding and of course, delicious!