My garden is filled with rusty garlic at the moment. But I’m not wasting my time being sad about it this year.

The good news is my rusty garlic is currently developing cloves of garlic, meaning I’m probably going to get some kind of a harvest. I know this because at least once a week, I lift one up to check.

Rusty garlic in my garden, November 2023.
Early-growth garlic, showing clove development.

Once it’s lifted, I can’t just re-plant it. It’s done. And to throw it away would be a huge waste. So instead I’ve turned to an old friend and flatmate’s comfort dish – which became one of my own comfort dishes all those years ago.

You see, every part of a fresh garlic plant is edible. So once I pull off the rusty bits, I chop the rest of it up, and turn it into delicious spaghetti. The stem and leaves have a milder garlic flavour than garlic cloves, which is perfect for aglio e olio.

It’s quick, easy, vegetarian, and the ingredients are always in stock in our kitchen. It’s tasty, and perfect for those nights when I need something satisfying and simple.

The measurements below are a bit loose – use the low end for 1-2 people, and the high end for 3-4, and adjust to your own tastes.

Feel free to add chorizo, bacon, or prawns if you need the meat. Just cook them in the pan before adding the garlic and parsley.

Ingredients (serves 2-4)

1-2 fresh garlic stems (or 2-4 garlic cloves, if green garlic is unavailable)

Small handful parsley – I grow and use triple curled

100g dry spaghetti (per portion)

5 tbsp olive oil (per portion)

Salt, pepper

Parmesan, to serve


Finely chop parsley and green garlic.

Bring a pot of water to the boil. Add 1 tsp salt, and cook spaghetti.

Heat a frying pan over a medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add the olive oil and allow it to heat.

Reduce stove under the pan to low, add parsley and garlic, and lightly sauté in the oil.

After a minute or two, as the frying simmers down, add one teaspoon of the starchy pasta water to the garlic and oil. Stir. This will begin to form an emulsion where the oil and water combine, instead of separating.

Add another teaspoon of water to the oil and stir. Repeat until the oil looks thin and a little soupy (anywhere from 8-20 teaspoons depending on how many are being served). As you add the water, it can begin taking more, but doing it slowly is worth it – this is the critical part of the recipe!

Don’t bother draining pasta. Just use some tongs to pull it straight out of the pot, and straight into the frying pan. Use tongs to thoroughly coat the pasta in oil, garlic, and parsley. Add more water if it is too dry – the pasta should be glossy and coated in oil.

Season to taste with the salt and pepper. Mix completely.

Serve immediately with parmesan cheese.