Pasta With Garlic and Cheese

Spaghetti with grated Parmesan and parsley on a plate

The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 11 mins
Total: 16 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
405 Calories
23g Fat
38g Carbs
12g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 405
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 23g 29%
Saturated Fat 5g 27%
Cholesterol 16mg 5%
Sodium 3416mg 149%
Total Carbohydrate 38g 14%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 12g
Vitamin C 11mg 53%
Calcium 188mg 14%
Iron 2mg 12%
Potassium 188mg 4%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This super simple recipe for pasta with garlic and cheese is almost not a recipe. It's kind of like a deconstructed pesto, using parsley instead of basil. Of course, you can use basil if you'd like, but thyme or oregano in the quantities specified would be far too powerful a flavor. But lots of basil is delicious.

Whenever you cook pasta, it's important to have enough water. For a 1-pound box of pasta, use at least 4 quarts of water. The pasta should be able to move freely within the pot, so it doesn't stick together and so all of the noodles rehydrate evenly and at the same time.

It's also important to cook the pasta to "al dente"—a term used to describe perfectly cooked pasta. It is tender but firm, with a slight bite. When you bite into the pasta, look at the center; there shouldn't be any white left, but you should see a shading to opaque in the middle of the strand.

This recipe is best when served immediately after it's cooked. To make it even better, heat the plates in the oven before you add the pasta (be sure to use oven-safe plates). Have the wine poured before you toss the pasta with the garlic mixture, and prepare a nice green salad and set it out so it's ready and waiting for you. The garlic toast should be in a napkin in a basket. Put the pasta on a heated serving plate and dig in.

"This recipe is great if you are looking for a quick pantry dinner. You can add some protein if you'd like—or just have a carb feast. This is a recipe you will use again and again." —Tracy Wilk

A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • Kosher salt, as needed

  • 16 ounces spaghetti

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 3/4 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for pasta with garlic and cheese recipe gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add a handful of salt to season the water.

    Simmering water in a large pot on the burner

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  3. Add the spaghetti to the pot and stir. Cook it according to package directions, stirring frequently, until al dente (to the tooth), which means the pasta is tender but still firm.

    Spaghetti cooking in water in a large pot

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  4. Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the garlic in the olive oil for about 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until it is fragrant.

    Olive oil and garlic being stirred with a wooden spoon in a saucepan on the burner

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  5. Combine the garlic and oil with the parsley, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and the pepper in a serving bowl.

    Garlic oil and parsley being stirred with a spoon in a bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck 

  6. Drain the pasta once it is done. A bit of pasta cooking water should still be clinging to the pasta once it is drained. This will help the sauce form. Immediately toss with the garlic-parsley mixture. Top with cheese and toss again. Serve immediately with more grated cheese, if desired.

    Spaghetti draining in a colander

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck


Pasta with garlic and cheese is delicious in its simplicity, but it's also a terrific base to which you can add and subtract ingredients.

  • Add some freshly cracked pepper and omit the herbs, and you've got cacio e pepe.
  • Use basil instead of parsley for the taste of summertime.
  • Skip the parsley and add in some steamed broccoli and crushed red pepper.
  • Add the zest and juice of a lemon, and some fresh baby spinach (or kale) for a Florentine pasta.
  • Add some sautéed mushrooms in fresh thyme.

How to Store Pasta With Garlic and Cheese

Leftover pasta will keep for several days in a tightly sealed container in the fridge. You can microwave it to reheat it, but it tends to make the texture a bit gummy. If you would like to opt for a stovetop reheat, put the pasta and a little water or oil in a saucepan over low heat until it's hot all the way through. Add a little more olive oil, cheese, or herbs to garnish if desired.