The Pantry Pasta Formula for No-Time-to-Cook Nights

August  9, 2018

When I don’t want to cook, I cook pasta. This doesn’t totally make sense but feels right. In the colder months, I lean on slow tomato sauces, which bubble practically into jam. Nowadays, I raid the pantry for my favorite ingredients and toss them all in a bowl.

That’s how we ended up here.

New phone background, am I right or am I right? Photo by James Ransom

If I’ve made this recipe once, I’ve made it a hundred times. And to call it a recipe at all feels almost unfair. Between you and me, I’d never measured this before, not once. But it always ended up the same.

Which makes sense. My love for anchovies and garlic, olives and capers, olive oil and olive oil and olive oil is predictable. My fridge feels sad without parsley. And my solution to anything lackluster is, “Why don’t we add some red pepper flakes?”

Think of it like spaghetti aglio e olio made by someone feeling a liiiiiiittle greedy (it me). Instead of stopping at garlic and oil, salty and briny ingredients crash the party. But it’s still the same party—a pasta that is as much about the pasta as it is about the toppings.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“This toasted breadcrumb is also excellent served over pasta with an uncooked tomato sauce which has fresh uncooked garlic and basil as some of its ingredients”
— Chas373

Speaking of: the pasta shape. Maybe more than any other shape, spaghetti makes me smile, widely, but I’ve tried this with everything from whole-wheat penne to twisty fusilli. We could talk forever about shape-sauce pairing—and we’d have fun doing it—but the thing is, this recipe doesn’t care. It’s just comfort food. And whatever shape makes you feel the happiest, well, that’s the best shape.

Another pasta we want right now

Do you have a go-to pantry pasta? What's in it? Tell us in the comments!

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Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


noms October 27, 2018
Japanese aglio olio e peperoncino actually tends to include some fishiness. I first had it in a family restaurant, but the commercial sauce packets usually have anchovy (and msg) or "bonito", eg. S&B's

So when I make "aglio e olio e peperoncino" for myself, I usually include some dashi granules. ^^;;
Chas373 August 16, 2018
This recipe is what is known as Spaghetti or Linguine Alici. I grew up eating my grandmother's and mother's rendition of this. I'm in my 60's. What is missing is the addition of toasted breadcrumbs (Unflavored breadcrumbs purchased from an Italian bakery), which is sprinkled over each individual portion when serving.
To make the breadcrumb, add about 1/4 cup of Olive oil and about 1 1/2 cups Breadcrumb to a fairly deep sauce pan. Over medium heat, constantly stir with a wooden spoon for about 10 minutes or so, until golden brown. If you do not constantly stir the breadcrumb will cook unevenly and burn in spots giving it a burnt taste. This requires just a bit of patience, but you'll be rewarded. This toasted breadcrumb is also excellent served over pasta with an uncooked tomato sauce which has fresh uncooked garlic and basil as some of its ingredients
Sam L. August 16, 2018
I make the same pasta only with the addition of lemon zest and lemon juice.
Eric K. August 12, 2018
Who ate a whole plate of dis when it came out of the kitchen? <- It me. (Learned this phrase from you lot.)
Eric K. August 12, 2018
^It me. (Learned this phrase from you lot.)
Caroline V. August 9, 2018
All these recipes look super. I am making your spaghetti. Today! I like your writing style too. Greetings from Johannesburg.
Emma L. August 10, 2018
Thanks so much, Caroline! Hope you enjoy :)