Emergency Pasta

Everyone needs a pasta recipe for when you have people to impress and little or no time to cook. Boyfriend’s parents showed up unannounced? Emergency pasta. Cute girl you’ve been on two dates with is coming over but you got stuck in a late meeting at work? Emergency pasta.

The key is creating layers of flavor quickly and pretending that pasta was your plan all along. To that end, I’ve basically attempted to level up aglio e olio in this lightning-fast dish. The recipe requires no measuring and no fuss, plus almost any pasta shape will work. Serve with a simple salad and pop a fresh loaf of bread in the oven to warm, and I promise nobody will know how little you tried.

Time: 10-15 minutes


  • 1/4 box of pasta (about 4 ounces) per person

  • 1 drizzle of olive oil (about 1 tablespoon) per person, plus one extra drizzle for cooking

  • 2-3 cloves (about 2-3 teaspoons) of crushed or minced garlic per person

  • Salt to taste

  • Pepper to taste

  • 1 generous dash Italian seasoning (about 1/2 teaspoon) per person

  • 1 small dash red pepper flakes (about 1/4 teaspoon) per person

  • 1 generous handful grated Parmesan (about 1/3 cup) per person, plus more for topping

  • 1 generous handful spinach (about 1/3 cup) or similarly-textured salad green per person (we used a spinach-arugula blend)

  • 1 squeeze lemon juice (about 2 teaspoons) per person


  1. Place your serving bowl in the oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure that the pasta is hot when served.

  2. Prepare the pasta according to package instructions. Be sure to reserve about a cup of pasta water when draining.

  3. While the pasta is cooking, add one drizzle of olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the garlic and saute for two-three minutes.

  4. Add the Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper to the garlic and stir to combine, reducing the heat to medium low. Keep warm, reducing the heat further if the garlic shows signs of browning.

  5. When the pasta is finished cooking, add the pasta to the skillet with the remaining olive oil and Parmesan. Stir vigorously to combine, adding pasta water one spoonful at a time until the pasta is evenly coated in a silky sauce. You likely will not use all of the pasta water.

  6. Add the greens and lemon juice to the pasta, and continue to stir until the greens are wilted, about two-three minutes. Make sure the pasta is hot, increasing heat slightly if necessary.

  7. Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl, and top with additional Parmesan and black pepper. Crisis averted. Buon Appetito.

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