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Quick and Easy Pantry Pasta Recipe

Ah, the end of summer! It seems like the days between Labor Day and September 22 are spent cramming in as many backyard barbecues and jumps in the lake as possible. So, while you’re enjoying the last days of summer for as long as possible, don’t stress about groceries and whip up this easy pantry pasta.

Reach into your pantry – what kind of pasta do you have? Spaghetti? Linguine? Maybe orecchiette or even shells? Great! Any of these will work. Stop cooking the pasta about 3-4 minutes before the time on the package says – the pasta will finish cooking in your sauce. Also, this pantry pasta recipe can be mixed and matched however you’d like – don’t enjoy anchovies? Leave them out! Leftover cherry tomatoes? Add sliced cherry tomatoes just before serving.

Though it’s the end of the summer, we promise this recipe is going to be good any time of the year.

Some Important Tips

Anchovies are often a “secret” ingredient in sauces and dressings to add a special umami flavor. When heated with the oil, garlic, and butter of your pasta sauce, they dissolve and become a part of the sauce. Using these anchovies is optional, but we promise it will definitely give your pasta sauce a restaurant-quality texture and taste!

Try to work quickly!

When making your sauce, continuously stir your ingredients energetically. You do not want the main components of the sauce to separate. Just keep stirring quickly and the sauce will come together.

Save your pasta water and don’t rinse the pasta!

Rinsing will wash away all of the starch from your pasta, which will cause your sauce to be runny and even watery. This sauce is quite slippery, so the starch on the pasta and a bit of pasta water in the sauce will help it stick to the pasta.

Prep first!

Prep and cut your ingredients before you begin cooking. The pasta sauce cooks very fast, so unless you can cut thin slices of garlic at warp speed without slicing your fingertips, we strongly suggest you prep your ingredients before cooking. A great time to prep is while the pasta water is coming to a boil.


1 C Parmesan or another hard, salty cheese; plus more for serving
2 T Fresh Italian or flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
Salt – for flavoring pasta water
Freshly ground pepper
1 package pasta – any kind will do!
1/4 C Olive oil
1 tsp Crushed red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 T unsalted butter
1 ½ C pasta water

Optional Ingredients:

3-4 Oil- packed anchovies – canned or jarred
Fresh cherry tomatoes, halved


  1. Put on water to boil for pasta according to the instructions on the package. Generously salt the water. It should taste “like the sea” if you quickly taste it before it gets too hot.
  2. Prep your ingredients: thinly slice garlic; roughly chop the parsley; open up anchovies and roughly chop; grate 1 cup of parmesan cheese.
  3. Set a timer for about 3 minutes less than the pasta package says to cook it for. Your pasta will finish cooking in the sauce.
  4. Alright, get ready to move quickly! In a heavy bottom pan, heat the olive oil and sliced garlic on medium-high heat.
  5. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until garlic starts to brown.
  6. Once garlic starts to brown, add the anchovies, and cook until the anchovies dissolve.
  7. Add 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes – add more if you like your pasta spicy!
  8. Snag about a cup and a ¼ of the pasta water with a measuring cup from the pasta that is boiling and add it to the pan with your sauce.
  9. Add parmesan cheese to the sauce. Lower the heat a little bit so that the sauce is simmering.
  10. Once your pasta timer goes off, add the pasta to the sauce. Add butter at this time and stir pasta. Add freshly ground pepper.
  11. Take pasta off the heat. Add lemon zest, lemon juice. Stir.
  12. Fold in roughly chopped parsley.
  13. Add more parmesan, drizzle of olive oil, and freshly ground black pepper for serving.


Recipe inspired by this one from Bon Appetit!

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