Brown butter sauce pasta with parmesan cheese and crispy bread crumbs is one of the most deliciously unapologetic meals I know how to make. (And I am not in the habit of apologizing for anything I cook or eat.) It's the kind of meal you allow yourself to really truly need on those days when pasta and butter sauce might actually be the answer.
"Mmm. I tried this recipe yesterday and I had to come back to tell you... I just can't get enough of it! It's so fast and simple; and the crispy toasted bread crumbs were the perfect finishing touch. Thank you so much for sharing. I'll definitely be making it again." - Ella
This recipe is simply pasta coated in nutty brown butter, parmesan cheese, and crispy toasted bread crumbs. And it's nothing short of heaven on earth. I so badly want to both undersell it and emphasize its magic.
Because, I mean, I don't use brown butter nearly enough. There are few recipes that call for butter that wouldn't be made better if you took 5 minutes to brown the butter first.
So yes, you absolutely could cook some pasta and toss it with a hunk of butter and some parmesan cheese and just be done with it. But you could also take 10 extra minutes to transform the butter and cheese into a gorgeous brown butter sauce and be rewarded with something that is very far from ordinary. This seems worth it to me.
While we're talking about worthwhile effort, I also feel that making homemade fresh spaghetti for this recipe is worth the bit of extra effort. Homemade pasta requires some planning ahead because the dough and the noodles need time to rest. But the actual hands-on time is minimal, especially when compared to the rich, buttery egg yolk flavor and superior texture of fresh pasta.
Ingredients needed to prepare this recipe
One of the greatest things about this recipe is how few ingredients you need to make a dish that's so extraordinary.
- A couple slices of thick, country style or sourdough bread
- 3 or 4 cloves of garlic (yes, I know, I forgot to include the garlic in the photo above)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and ground black pepper
- Fresh Italian parsley. The flat leaf rather than the curly kind.
- Spaghetti noodles or any kind of pasta you like. Homemade spaghetti noodles are preferred, but any kind of dried pasta also works.
- Unsalted butter. Brown butter can be made with either salted or unsalted butter but salted butter is more prone to burning and tends to create more foam making it difficult to see when the milk solids on the bottom of the pan are brown.
- White wine vinegar
- Grated parmesan. If you want to make this a vegetarian dish, use a vegetarian hard cheese. You can also skip the cheese and sprinkle in some nutritional yeast which has a savory, cheesy flavor.
Additions and substitutions
This is one of those blank-slate kind of recipes to which you can add practically anything. How much do we love recipes like that??? 👏
Toss in veggies, meat, poultry, tofu, or seafood. Add more flavor with chili crisp, fresh or dried herbs. Here are a few more ideas to get you started...
- Add sautéed or roasted veggies. Follow this guide for how to sauté vegetables or this one for how to roast vegetables to cook the vegetables first then toss them into the brown butter pasta at the end before topping with bread crumbs. The same applies to grilled vegetables.
- Add meat or poultry. Brown butter pasta is the perfect dish in which to toss in leftover leftover meat and poultry. My three favorites include leftover shredded roast chicken (or rotisserie chicken), pork carnitas, and Asian short ribs. Also, of course, crumbled cooked sausage, crispy bacon or pancetta, or ribbons of prosciutto are fantastic additions.
- Add seafood. Beautifully seared scallops served over a plate of brown butter pasta... I'm can't imagine I actually need to say anything to sell that idea. But, really, any kind of seafood, no matter how beautifully cooke and flavorful all on its own, is even more delicious when served over a bed of brown butter past.
- Add fresh flavor with herbs and lemon zest. I always use fresh Italian parsley in this recipe, but honestly any kind of fresh herbs is delicious in there. The same is true with a bit of lemon zest, which adds a brightness that will intensify the flavor of any fresh herbs you add and cut through the richness of the brown butter sauce.
- Stir in some chili crisp or any other condiment or garnish. Chili crisp is having it's moment and that's perfectly fine with me because I feel there are few things that don't benefit from a spoonful of its spicy-savory-sweet-and-crispy deliciousness, including brown butter pasta. (At the moment, I'm loving this hot honey chili crisp.) But, chili crisp is just the beginning. Toss in marinated artichoke hearts, marinated roasted bell peppers, olives, sun dried tomatoes, Calabrian peppers, or even vinegary sliced banana peppers.
Step-by-Step Photos and Instructions
Tear the slices of bread into large pieces and pulse them into a food processor along with the garlic until finely chopped.
Add the breadcrumbs and garlic to a 12-inch skillet and drizzle in the olive oil. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and set the pan over medium heat.
Cook, stirring, until the bread crumbs are brown and crisp, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the chopped parsley then scrape the bread crumbs into a bowl and set aside. Wipe out the skillet.
Fill a large pot about halfway full of water and add enough salt for the water to taste salty. Bring to a boil and add the spaghetti. Cook just until the noodles are soft but a bit underdone.
Drain the pasta in a colander reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Rinse the pasta with cold water to stop it from continuing to cook.
Add the butter to a small saucepan and set it over medium heat. You can also do this in your skillet but if the inside of your skillet is dark like mine is, it can be difficult to see when the butter is brown.
Cook, swirling occasionally, until the foam subsides, the milk solids turn golden, and it smells nutty; 3 to 5 minutes. (Watch carefully; it can burn quickly!)
Pour the brown butter into the skillet and add the vinegar and ¾ cup of the reserved pasta water. Bring it to a simmer and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes until it thickens slightly.
Add the pasta to the skillet and toss it around in the sauce. If you're adding other ingredients, this is the time to toss them into the skillet as well.
Continue to cook over medium heat until the pasta is cooked through. This will only take a couple of minutes. Add more pasta water if the noodles need more time to cook and the skillet is looking dry.
Add the cheese and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds, just until it begins to melt. Remove from the heat and add black pepper to taste.
Top each serving with crispy toasted breadcrumbs and serve with additional parmesan cheese.
- A couple of slices of country-style bread
- 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and ground black pepper
- ½ cup chopped parsley
- 1 pound spaghetti or 1 recipe homemade spaghetti noodles
- 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 cup (3.5 ounces) grated parmesan + more for serving
- Tear the slices of bread into large pieces and toss them into a food processor. Pulse the bread in the food processor along with the cloves of garlic until finely chopped.
- Add the breadcrumbs and garlic to a 12-inch skillet, drizzle in the olive oil, and stir to combine. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and set the pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until the bread crumbs are brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chopped parsley then scrape the bread crumbs into a bowl and set aside. Wipe out the skillet.
- Fill a large pot about halfway full of water and add enough salt for the water to taste salty. Bring to a boil and add the spaghetti. Cook just until the noodles are soft but a bit underdone. Drain in a colander reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Rinse the pasta with cold water to stop it from continuing to cook.
- Add the butter to a small saucepan and set it over medium heat. You can brown the butter in the skillet if you like but if the inside of your skillet is dark (like mine) it can be difficult to see when the butter is brown.
- Cook, swirling occasionally, until the foam subsides, the milk solids turn golden, and it smells nutty; 3 to 5 minutes. (Watch carefully; it can burn quickly!) Remove from heat and pour into the skillet.
- Add the vinegar and ¾ cup of the pasta water to butter in the skillet. Bring it to a simmer and cook for a few minutes, stirring, until it's thickened slightly. Add the spaghetti and toss it around in the sauce until the pasta is cooked through. This will only take a couple of minutes. Add more pasta water if the noodles need more time to cook and the skillet is looking dry. (If you're adding other ingredients, add them to the skillet along with the pasta.)
- Add the cheese and cook for about 30 seconds, just until it begins to melt. Remove from the heat and add black pepper to taste.
- Top each serving with breadcrumbs and serve with additional parmesan cheese.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 510Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 37mgSodium: 1188mgCarbohydrates: 60gFiber: 4gSugar: 2gProtein: 18g