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This flavorful pasta with olives is a terrific example of how to make a quick pasta dish that’s totally delicious with just a handful of basic ingredients. All you need is a few pantry staples and fresh lemon zest!
This easy recipe was a must when I was at uni, and I still love it. And don’t mistake simple for bland, because while quick and easy, this flavorful pasta recipe makes the most of your juicy olives and fresh lemon zest.
All you have to do is cook your spaghetti, and gently fry olives, garlic, chilli flakes in some olive oil (yes, all pantry staples!). Then drain the pasta and add it to the olives along with lemon zest, some parmesan cheese, and chopped fresh parsley. Give them a good toss together to coat the pasta nicely. Serve straight away!
Watch how to make it
Quick, budget-friendly, and totally delicious.
How good is that?
List of the ingredients
- Pasta (spaghetti, penne, fusilli…)
- Kalamata olives (or green olives), pitted
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Fresh lemon
- Chilli flakes (same as crushed red peppers)
- Parmesan cheese (optional)
How to make pasta with olives
(Note: this is a quick description with step-by-step photos, the full recipe is at the bottom of the page)
- Cook your pasta until al dente.
- Grate lemon zest, parmesan cheese and chop the parsley. My microplane and herb scissors make these tasks much easier!
- Gently fry the juicy olives, garlic and chilli flakes in olive oil.
- Drain and add your spaghetti to the pan. I LOVE this one, it delivers non-stick perfection without harmful chemicals.
- Add the lemon and parsley mix, some pasta water and toss until nicely combined. Enjoy!
Recipe notes & tips
Ingredients & substitutions
PASTA: spaghetti or chunky rigatoni or penne works well for this recipe. We also love whole grain pasta which provides extra fiber and micronutrients.
OLIVES: Kalamata olives add plenty of savory flavor, but you can use other nice green olives instead, just make sure they’re pitted. To use up your olive leftovers, you might have a look at these delicious olive focaccia or chickpea salad.
CHILLI FLAKES (OR CRUSHED RED PEPPERS): I love that spicy kirk, but if spicy is not your thing, feel free to skip or reduce the amount of chilli flakes.
EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL: use good-quality extra virgin olive oil, you can really taste it here.
LEMON & PARSLEY: their freshness balance the tangy flavor coming from the olives. You might skip the parsley if you wish, but don’t skip the lemon zest!
PARMESAN CHEESE: it makes everything better with its savory flavor. But you can leave it out, or you can use Grana Padano cheese instead, similar in taste to Parmesan but much cheaper.
VEGAN OPTION: just skip the cheese, it tastes delicious anyway!
Add-ins for pasta with olives
This quick spaghetti with olives is also versatile and goes so well with extra vegetables or protein. You might add one of these delicious add-ons to the pan while you cook the olives:
- Grilled chicken, some anchovies or canned tuna
- Halved cherry tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, or canned artichokes
- Cooked broccoli, cauliflower, peppers or zucchini
More easy pasta recipes?
- Creamy pasta and spinach
- Pasta with peppers
- Pea and asparagus pasta
- Tomato basil pasta with ricotta
- Pasta with zucchini
If you make this quick pasta with olives, or you have a question, let me know by leaving a comment. I would love to hear from you! x
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10-Minute Pasta with Olives.
- 8oz (220 grams) pasta
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ or ½ tsp chilli flakes (crushed red peppers), according to you taste
- ¾ cup Kalamata olive or green olives, pitted and cut into halves (I mix both halved and whole olives)
- 1 lemon, zest (finely grated)
- 3 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
- 3 Tbsp parmesan cheese, grated (plus more for serving if you wish) optional
- salt, to taste
- Firstly, bring a pot of salty water to the boil and cook your pasta until al dente. Follow the instructions on the package.
- When you drain the pasta, reserve at least ½ cup of pasta cooking water.
- While the pasta is cooking, prepare the olives. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.
- Add garlic and chilli flakes, cook until fragrant (about 30-45 seconds), then add the olives and stir for about 3-4 minutes. Turn the heat off.
- In a small bowl, mix the grated parmesan cheese if you use it, chopped parsley and grated lemon zest.
- When the pasta is drained, add it to the pan along with the mix of parsley, lemon and parmesan cheese. Turn the heat on, add some of the pasta cooking water and toss for about 10 seconds, just until well combined and nicely coated. Add the cooking water gradually, you don't want to water down the flavor.
- Serve hot with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of chilli flakes if you like. Plus grated parmesan cheese if you don't keep it vegan. Enjoy!