Easy, 5-Ingredient Capellini

published Apr 26, 2023
The Easiest Five Ingredient Capellini Recipe

Capellini pasta, garlic, Parmesan cheese, lemon, and olive oil are all you need to make this easy, breezy meal.


Makes8 ounces

Prep5 minutes to 10 minutes

Cook8 minutes to 10 minutes

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pasta with red pepper and parm on top
Credit: Photo: Vicky Wasik; Food Styling: Kristina Razon

No matter how much you love to cook, it’s inevitable that there will be days when you are simply exhausted by the thought of making dinner. I sometimes have days where not only am I not in the mood to cook, but also where my bank account is saying, “Hell no!,” to the idea of ordering takeout. On those days, I turn to simple, super-quick recipes that use ingredients I’m likely to have on hand.

This five-ingredient capellini is one of those recipes. It’s the perfect pasta dish to enjoy on nights when you feel like doing the bare minimum in the kitchen. Lemon, Parmesan, crushed red pepper, and garlic combine to make this an easy and delicious weeknight meal. It’s got vibrance from lemon juice and zest, the perfect amount of subtle heat from crushed red pepper, and an irresistible umami flavor from garlic and Parmesan that really ties the dish together.

This recipe takes 10 minutes or less to prep, and 10 minutes or less to cook. You’ll probably spend more time scrolling through your phone deciding what to order than you would making this meal from start to finish.

Credit: Photo: Vicky Wasik; Food Styling: Kristina Razon

What’s the Difference Between Capellini and Angel Hair Pasta?

Capellini means “little hair” in Italian, and it is very similar to angel hair pasta, but angel hair is just a hair thinner than capellini (sorry I couldn’t resist!). If you can’t find capellini, using angel hair will work perfectly fine. Since capellini is a bit thicker, it’s less likely to break when being tossed together with the other components of the dish. Either way, be sure that you don’t cook your pasta beyond al dente to ensure minimal breakage.

Is There Any Sauce on This Pasta?

The short answer is, yes! The long answer is that the star of this dish is pasta water, which thickens the lemon juice and Parmesan into a creamy sauce that helps it cling to the pasta, while providing maximum flavor. You’ll be surprised by how much you can do with so few ingredients!

Tips for Making 5-Ingredient Capellini

  • Prep your ingredients first. This pasta comes together quickly, so it’s important to make sure your ingredients are ready to go before you start cooking. 
  • Don’t be shy with the pasta water. Pasta water is what makes this dish creamy. If your pasta is dry, try adding more water one tablespoon at a time. 

The Easiest Five Ingredient Capellini Recipe

Capellini pasta, garlic, Parmesan cheese, lemon, and olive oil are all you need to make this easy, breezy meal.

Prep time 5 minutes to 10 minutes

Cook time 8 minutes to 10 minutes

Makes 8 ounces

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 8 ounces

    dried capellini or angel hair pasta

  • 2 cloves


  • 3 ounces

    Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

  • 1

    large lemon

  • 1/4 cup

    olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more for the pasta

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes, plus more for serving

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper


  1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add 8 ounces dried capellini or angel hair pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente, 3 to 4 minutes. Meanwhile, thinly slice 2 garlic cloves. Finely grate 3 ounces Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup); grate more for serving if desired. Finely grate the zest of 1 large lemon until you have 1 tablespoon; juice the lemon until you have 1/4 cup.

  2. When the pasta is ready, reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta.

  3. Return the pot to medium heat, add 1/4 cup olive oil, and heat until shimmering. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the pasta, and gently toss until coated in the oil.

  4. Add 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Gently toss until combined. If the pasta is dry, toss in more pasta water 1 tablespoon at a time.

  5. Turn off the heat. Add the Parmesan, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Toss until combined. Serve with more grated Parmesan and red pepper flakes if desired.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.