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This simple garlic and basil pasta recipe is one to keep in your back pocket for busy evenings. It’s quick, easy, requires minimal ingredients – and most importantly, it’s absolutely delicious! Plus, you can customise it completely to suit you by adding in your favourite herbs and veggies – this recipe is a good base for you to turn it into your perfect dinner!
The key to this recipe is to use fresh everything. This includes:
- fresh basil! I used mine straight from the plant in my garden
- freshly grated parmesan – pre-grated just doesn’t melt the same way
- fresh garlic – this is one time where I won’t suggest using the jarred stuff to save time
- chilli flakes that aren’t 6 years old
And then the only other ingredients are the spaghetti, olive oil and salt and pepper. Good quality olive oil makes a big difference here, but if cheap is all you have then it still does the job. If your olive oil doesn’t quite have enough flavour then try using 1 tbsp of melted butter along with it for a richer, creamier result.
In terms of the salt, any flaky salt will do fine – just no table salt! Americans tend to use kosher salt, while here in the UK, flaky sea salt is more common. You don’t need too much, but it’s important not to skip it.
The same applies to the pepper – traditional black pepper works best in this dish. Freshly cracked is always best, too. If you have some different coloured peppercorns then feel free to try using them here, but personally, I prefer black pepper in dishes like this.
There are so many things that you can add to this recipe! I keep it nice and simple, but really, your options are unlimited!
Extra Herbs and Aromatics
Try adding some finely chopped thyme, oregano and parsley in with the basil for more of a delicious fresh herb flavour. This would also be delicious with a few halved cherry tomatoes and black olives!
Replace regular salt with herb or even lemon salt for an extra depth of flavour! Obviously, still use regular salt for the pasta water, but a sprinkle of infused salt on top won’t do any harm!
Add in some onion, chopped shallot or garlic chives for some extra texture and more of an onion-garlic flavour. Obviously, this pasta already uses plenty of garlic though, so if you prefer things less garlic-y then this isn’t the best route for you.
A little bit of fresh lemon juice and zest at the end would also bring another element of freshness and lightness. However, you don’t necessarily want to bother zesting a lemon and juicing (probably half of) it for this dish – hence why it’s an optional extra.
You can add in almost any veg! For example:
- chopped cherry tomatoes right at the end
- halved, pitted black olives at the same time as the basil
- thin strips of bell pepper 2-3 minutes after the garlic and chilli flakes have started cooking
- replace spaghetti with spiralised courgette (zucchini) partially or completely
- add in some fresh spinach towards the end (or right at the end, depending on if you like it wilted or not)
- replace the chilli flakes with a deseeded and finely chopped red chilli pepper
See – pretty much limitless! You can make this garlic and basil pasta as healthy as you like, really. Plus, it means that you get so many different variations each with the same cooking method so that it’s super easy to change it up and have something a little different even on the evenings when you’re absolutely exhausted!
What equipment do I need to make this pasta?
First, you’re going to need a basic saucepan for cooking your spaghetti, plus a colander or sieve to drain it. You’ll also need a regular frying pan (a small one will do) to make your spicy garlic basil oil.
While a set of weighing scales is handy for this recipe as well, you can certainly manage without one if you’re good at estimation.
Since you need to very finely chop your garlic cloves, I recommend using either a good chef’s knife or a mandoline (just watch your fingers!). You can use the same knife or a pair of herb scissors to get your basil chopped nice and finely as well.
A knife set can be useful as you may prefer to use differently sized knives for your garlic vs your basil. You’ll also need a cutting board, and personally I find these scoop ones super useful for getting all the ingredients into the pan easily.
You’ll also need to grate your parmesan – pre-grated just isn’t as good! It’s actually because the bulking agents make it melt strangely – it turns all clumpy and gross. I promise it’s not just me making this up!
And, for one final item, a silicone spoon (or spatula if you like) to stir your pasta and garlic oil while it cooks!
All of this (except maybe the mandoline) is pretty essential for cooking, so it’s definitely worth getting hold of anything on the list that you don’t have already.
UK Equipment Recommendations
Simple Garlic Basil Pasta
- 80 grams spaghetti
- 5 tbsp olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic very thinly sliced
- 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
- 60 grams grated parmesan
- 1 bunch basil very finely chopped
- salt and pepper to season to taste
- Bring a large pan of salted water to boil and begin to cook the spaghetti.
- In a separate pan, heat half the oil over medium heat, then add the sliced garlic cloves and chilli flakes. Cook until the garlic is golden-brown.
- By this time, the pasta should be cooked. Drain it and add it to the pan with the garlic and chilli flakes.
- Reduce the heat to low and add the parmesan and the rest of the oil and stir to coat the spaghetti evenly. Turn off the heat and stir in the basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
- add in thinly sliced yellow onion with the garlic and chilli flakes
- add black olives or cherry tomatoes with the parmesan
- add parsley or other soft herbs with the basil
If you fancy more simple veggie pasta recipes, try my light olive oil spaghetti with tomatoes and courgette (zucchini) or one-pan arrabiata pasta. Both of these are also super quick, easy, and only make one serving so that you can scale them to feed the exact number of people you need.
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