Dinner Fast: Pasta with Garlic, Red Chili and Lime

I have an old standby recipe that I make when I want a filling and flavourful meal really fast. Basically, it’s a tarted up version of pasta with garlic and olive oil, which I used to make quite a bit when the kids were all at home. I don’t remember where I got the idea to add chile and lime, but this is a tasty variation. I like mine even better with a grating of fresh Parmigiana Reggiano before serving.

If you get home from work feeling you just can’t pull together a meal and are thinking about picking up some fast food or ordering take-out, think again. You can have this dish on the table in less than 30 minutes and you’ll have the benefit of some cooking therapy during the process, getting your evening off to a relaxed (and delicious) start. I made it tonight after a busy Saturday of errands, unpacking (yes, still at it! surely it will end soon?) and babysitting (no chore there, given how adorable my grandchildren are  — I freely declare my bias).

By the way, a small portion of this would be a great starter for an Italian dinner party for company.

Here’s how I pulled off this attractive and flavourful 

Pasta with Garlic, Red Chili and Lime

tonight, including tipple and entertainment suggestions.

1. Get out your pasta pot, fill it with water and put it on the stove to boil.

2. Pour yourself a glass of wine, if you desire. I recommend a nice crisp white to go with this dish, but hey, it’s your choice.

3. Mince 1/2 to 1 red chili pepper, depending on how much pasta you’re making and how much spice you like. If you don’t have a fresh chile, get out some dried flakes. Mince a couple of garlic cloves.  Zest a lime, then cut it in half.

4. Put 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan over a low simmer. Add the garlic and chili, and stir occasionally. Keep the heat low so the garlic won’t brown while the flavours mellow and infuse the oil. Add a generous grinding of pepper.

5. As you are preparing the food and sipping your wine, notice that you are humming and feeling more relaxed as the stresses of the day dissipate. In my case, I noticed I was humming Volare, so I put on Dean Martin’s Greatest Hits and let him take over the entertainment portion of the evening.

6. When the water is at a rolling boil, add a generous amount of salt, then put the pasta in. I used capellini which takes only 3 minutes to cook. I wouldn’t use anything larger than spaghetti for this dish, but naturally you’ll use what you like.

7. When the pasta is cooked, scoop up some of the cooking water in a measuring cup, then drain the pasta and add it to the sauté pan, along with the lime zest. If you like lime, squeeze a half lime or so over the dish.

8. Using tongs or wooden salad forks, mix the flavourings into the pasta until everything is well distributed, adding some of the reserved water if you need to moisten the pasta.

9. Plate, grate some cheese (preferably Parmigiana Reggiano) over the top along with another dusting of pepper, and photograph for posterity.

10. Sit down to dinner long before the pizza delivery guy would be ringing the doorbell, and enjoy!


  1. This sounds like a great quick pasta dish and I’m definitely going to add the recipe to arsenal of pasta dishes. Unless I simply do not want to cook, I cannot justify having dinner delivered when I’ve always got the ingredients to make a quick pasta dish and, as you pointed out, in less time than it would take to have food delivered. Thanks for sharing!

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