This Garlic and Spinach Pasta saves my life! As much as I love cooking, there are nights where I don’t want to be anywhere around my kitchen. I just want something quick and easy.
One night I threw together a bunch of garlic (I love garlic), red pepper flakes, and olive oil in a skillet. The flavor fell a little flat and I wanted something that felt a little healthier and that tasted a bit fresher than those 3 ingredients could give me. So, I reached for some parmesan, spinach and a lemon that I had in the fridge. This Garlic and Spinach Pasta has just a handful of ingredients but tastes so yummy, and comes together in under 30 minutes, making it perfect for those weeknights where you don’t want to cook but you can’t look at another frozen pizza.
What type of pan should I use?
As I started to write this section I realized that I am going to have to sit down and write a full post about pots and pans. Depending on where you look and who you ask a sauté pan is two totally different pieces of equipment. So for now I will say: use a pan that is roughly 12-14 inches across the base with tall straight sides that are roughly 3 inches in height.
You can get away with a 12-14 inch skillet but it will be tricky to accomplish and could get a bit messy.
Easy Pasta from Pantry Staples
You should have all of the ingredients for this Garlic and Spinach Pasta in your pantry. If not, we may need to have a quick conversation.
- Olive Oil – This is the base for a lot of great recipes. If you don’t have a good olive oil get one. Now that’s not to say you have to have the best olive oil in the world. In fact, if you will be heating the oil, I would not use that. My preference is for California’s Olive Ranch Everyday Olive Oil. No, this is not sponsored. I just really like them. I think they offer really good flavor at a reasonable price.
- Garlic – Every kitchen should have a bulb (or two or three) of garlic in their house at all times. A bulb of garlic, kept in the pantry, will keep for 3-5 months so there is no excuse to not have them in the house (unless of course you are allergic in which case, this is not the recipe for you).
- Crushed Red Peppers – Need heat? Add some crushed red peppers. You can top anything with these to add spiciness. Pizza, ice cream, pizza ice cream (okay, that just sounds gross), but you get the point.
- Pasta – Boxes, upon boxes of dry pasta should be in your pantry. This would be a great recipe to cook up all of those unfinished boxes you have in your pantry.
- Spinach – I use fresh spinach, frozen spinach that has been thawed and drained would work really well in this too. The amount I give is just a guideline. If you really like spinach, add more. If it’s not your favorite, add less. It’s up to you!
- Parmesan – Again, this is something that should always, always be in the fridge unless you have dietary restrictions that don’t allow it. Unopened Parmesan will last 2-4 months. Once opened you have about 6 weeks to use it.
- Lemons – Lemon juice adds a bright acidity to many dishes. Keep stored in the fridge to make them last around 3-4 weeks.
I love this Garlic and Spinach Pasta with spaghetti noodles. But really you can use any type of pasta you have on hand. As I said above, this would be a great recipe to use up the leftover bits of pasta from multiple boxes. Just make sure that they all have the same cooking time. The idea of this Garlic and Spinach Pasta is that everything comes together by the time the pasta is cooked. I used a pasta that took 10 minutes to cook to al dente. You may need to adjust the timings a bit if your pasta takes less or more time to cook. No matter what kind of pasta you choose, though, this should come together in let than 30 minutes.
Don’t Rinse Your Pasta
That’s it. That’s this whole section. Don’t rinse your pasta. It removes all of the yummy starch that helps to thicken the sauce. Just don’t.
Do Not Buy Pre-grated Parmesan
Please do not use pre-grated parmesan. Yes, it is convenient but even the cheap block of parmesan will taste better than the pre-grated. Even if you buy within the same brand, the block will taste better. So, please, please do not use pre-grated.
Which Brings Us to Blender Parm
Blender Parm is a technique I learned through Bon Appetit. And it is exactly as it sounds: parmesan in a blender. Rather than taking the time to grate the 1 cup of parmesan needed to make the Garlic and Spinach Pasta, take a block of parm, cut into smallish pieces, and put them into a blender. Let the blender run until the parmesan has been blended fine. And you’re done! Put any leftovers in the fridge or use it to top the individual portions of pasta.
Adding Protein to Your Garlic and Spinach Pasta
There are a couple of ways you could add protein to this:
- Chickpeas – use canned, rinsed chickpeas to add protein and crunch. Once the oil is hot add the chickpeas to the pan and saute. No need to remove them from the pan before adding other ingredients, just make sure to stir them so they don’t burn.
- Sausage – I think pan frying some ground sausage would make this dish next level. But it might mess with the timings a little bit (30 minute guarantee will be void). Start by reducing the olive oil by about half, heat the olive oil in the skillet until shimmery and hot. Carefully, place small chunks of sausage in the oil and brown on two sides. Once browned add in the first round of garlic and continue making the pasta per the instructions. I have not tried it with sausage so, unfortunately, I can’t give timings.
- Shredded Chicken – This would be great if you have a rotisserie chicken from the store. Just shred up a couple of breasts and add it in when you add the spinach to just warm it through.
All About You
This Garlic and Spinach Pasta is all about your preferences. If you love garlic, add more. If you want it to be more subtle add less. Want more spice? Add more red pepper flakes. Less spice? Use less red pepper flakes. Only feeding two people? Halve the recipe. You get the idea. Make it your own. And then let me know what you think in the comments or tag me on the instas when you make it!
Garlic and Spinach Pasta
- 1 pound 16 ounces spaghetti or other pasta
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil divided
- 8-10 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- ¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon salt plus more for the pasta water, divided
- 8-16 ounces fresh spinach rinsed
- 1 cup grated parmesan
- 1 cup reserved pasta water
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Fill a stock pot with water and season with kosher salt until it tastes salty but not overly salty. Bring to a boil.
- While water is coming up to a boil, slice garlic and add half the garlic to a cold 3-quart saute pan along with the olive oil, and crushed red peppers. When the water comes to a boil, turn the heat under the saute pan to medium. And then add the pasta to the boiling water. Cook pasta until 2 minutes before al dente. While the pasta is cooking, stir the garlic and oil mixture until the garlic just starts to take on color, about 3-4 minutes. Add the remaining garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for another, 2-3 minutes until it begins to soften.
- Once all of the garlic is ready, add about one third of the spinach to the saute pan. Using tongs or spider strainer, remove half of the pasta from the cooking water and add it to the saute pan and stir it together with the spinach and garlic. Add in another third of the spinach, along with the remaining half of pasta and stir. Add in the remaining spinach. Turn off the heat and add ½ cup pasta water and parmesan, stir it constantly until the sauce is silky smooth. If the sauce starts to look too dry, add in the remaining pasta water ¼ cup at a time until you reach your desired consistency. Stir in lemon juice and serve immediately.
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