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When you don’t have a lot of fresh ingredients in the house, you can still create a beautiful pasta with a few simple ingredients from your pantry. This dish may only use a handful of ingredients, but it’s the type of pasta you find yourself craving thanks to its simple garlic-kissed pan sauce and oh-so-crispy breadcrumbs. This is the pasta I always turn to when I want something comforting and delicious but incredibly quick. And, believe me, it’s all of those things.

It’s often said that a dish is only as good as the ingredients in it, and while that’s certainly true, this pasta lets you get away with using some pretty basic ones. It’s all in the preparation method here, where you’re creating a quick pan sauce that relies mostly on some pan-fried garlic and pasta water to bring it all together. (I’m counting parmesan cheese as a pantry staple here too, and that helps form a nice creamy coating for the noodles without the use of butter.)

While the chili flake and browned garlic make this pasta so flavorful, the extra special touch is the breadcrumb topping. All it requires is heating some olive oil in a pan and giving the breadcrumbs a quick chance to hop in and get golden brown and toasty. It’s so easy you’ll be thinking of as many other things to top them with as you can – they really do make everything better. (And they’re so simple to make!)

Garlic Parmesan Pantry Pasta

Serves 2; 5 minutes prep, 15 minutes cook time

Ingredients
  • 12 oz spaghetti
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Fresh parsley, finely chopped, for serving (optional)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Preparation
  1. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the spaghetti 2 minutes less than package directions call for. Reserve 1 1/4 cup pasta water.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a pot or high-sided skillet over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs, season with salt and pepper, and stir to coat. Cook until golden brown, stirring frequently, about 5-7 minutes. Transfer breadcrumbs to a bowl and set aside.
  3. Wipe out pot and heat remaining olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until starting to turn golden brown. Add chili flake, followed by 1 1/4 cups pasta water.
  4. Add spaghetti to pot, followed by Parmesan, salt and pepper. Toss frequently until pasta is al dente and sauce has thickened, adding more pasta water as needed.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in parsley, if using. Top with breadcrumbs and enjoy!
  6. Note: If you don't have fresh garlic, you can substitute 1 teaspoon garlic powder, added with chili flake.

Recipe adapted from Easy Weeknight.