This pasta dish is impressive, but it’s barely any work at all, ideal for an impromptu gathering. Obviously, you’ll want the freshest sweetest crabmeat available. Substitute lobster if you can’t get crab, or use small shrimp, briefly cooked in butter, and feel free to vary the herbs if you can’t find chervil. Chervil is not as popular outside of France as this mildly licoricey herb should be—use basil, mint, or cilantro instead.—Melissa Clark


I’m glad you asked. LC Hump Day Pasta (#LCHumpDayPasta) is a little something we cooked up to help you on the night of the week that you feel least like cooking. Wednesday was traditionally Prince Spaghetti Day (for those of you old enough to remember). We’ve revamped and updated that to Hump Day and included every type of pasta there is.

Floral pasta bowl, filled with crab pasta, sprinkled with parsley and Parmesan. A cheese grater and larger bowl in the background.

Buttery Crab Pasta

4.92 / 12 votes
A lovely, light summer pasta filled with crab and cherry tomatoes, it comes together in under 30 minutes.
David Leite
Servings3 servings
Calories597 kcal
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time30 minutes


  • Fine sea salt
  • 8 ounces bucatini or linguine
  • 4 tablespoons (2 oz) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 2 cups (10 oz) halved golden or red cherry tomatoes
  • 1 scallion, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 cup fresh chervil or fresh parsley leaves (or substitute a combination of fresh parsley and fresh tarragon)
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, preferably organic
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces cooked lump crabmeat, picked over to remove any stray shells*
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for serving
  • Flaky sea salt, for serving


  • Bring a large of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente (usually a minute or two less than the package directs). Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta.
  • In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk in 1/2 cup of the pasta water and the Parmesan. Stir in the tomatoes, scallion, red pepper flakes, and a large pinch of salt, simmer until the tomatoes begin to soften, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Stir in the pasta, 1/4 cup of the chervil or parsley, the lemon zest and juice, and black pepper to taste. Toss until warmed through. Gently fold in the crabmeat.
  • Remove the skillet from the heat. Serve the crab pasta sprinkled with Parmesan, the remaining 1/4 cup chervil or parsley, a drizzle of olive oil, , and more red pepper flakes, to taste.


*How do I get the bits of shell out of my crabmeat?

This might not sound like a big deal until you hear that nasty crunch while you’re devouring a big, beautiful bowl of seafood pasta. Take all that glorious crabmeat and spread it out on a baking sheet. Pop it under the broiler for a minute—just enough to make those bits of shell turn bright red. And…easier to spot. With this little tip, you’re still going to have to pick it out, but it will to make those bits of the shell so much easier to find.

Adapted From

Dinner in French

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Serving: 1 servingCalories: 597 kcalCarbohydrates: 64 gProtein: 29 gFat: 25 gSaturated Fat: 13 gMonounsaturated Fat: 8 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 81 mgSodium: 791 mgFiber: 4 gSugar: 6 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Recipe © 2021 Melissa Clark. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

With all of the high-quality tinned seafood available now, I’ve been very interested in finding more ways to incorporate it into meals each week. I was really excited to try this recipe for buttery crab pasta with such a straightforward ingredient list and a quick cooking process. Definitely a weeknight winner with a unique twist with the lump crab.

Like so many summery pasta dishes, this can be easily riffed on based on what is in season (or in your fridge) and your personal preference. I can see dialing up the tomatoes or swapping for quick-cooking summer squash. This is a simple dish but a real winner.

Elegance and ease—this china-worthy buttery crab pasta is as quick and convenient as linguine with canned clams. And it’s as delicious as it is beautiful. A novice home cook? Don’t fret. Each step is a breeze and there is no juggling of multiple pans or tricky heat adjustments. It’s the balancing act of the ingredients that makes this dish special. Butter, lemon, tomatoes, and cheese all leave ample room for the crab to come through. I didn’t have chervil, so I used a combination of parsley and tarragon, and they made such a wonderful substitute. (Not surprising, as tarragon/butter sauce and seafood are known to be fabulous together.)

The shellfish and butter pairing made me think of warm lobster rolls (and summer!). So instead of crusty bread, I served it with tender and fluffy classic dinner rolls and a bottle of rosé.

This buttery crab pasta was a quick, easy, and decadent weeknight dinner for 2 adults and 2 kids. We polished off the entire pan in less than ten minutes. The only thing I would change is to add more lemon juice and zest!

I love pasta and crab, and served this recipe for buttery crab pasta as a main course. I didn’t feel like the sauce stuck to the bucatini pasta very well and next time I make this recipe, I’ll probably use a different type of pasta, but that’s personal preference I believe. Both my husband and I love seafood, so we both really liked this recipe. Because I like dishes with a lot of heat and my husband not so much, I wasn’t sure he would like the added red pepper, but both of us liked the additional touch of heat and will add that to the recipe when I make it again. It’s a keeper, but because of the cost of crab meat in our area of the country, probably won’t make it often.

If the words buttery, crab, and pasta don’t send your mind and stomach a flutter, I really don’t know what will. I was sold as soon as I read the name of this recipe and my excitement only grew when I read on and saw how easy it is to prepare. I love the way the lemon, butter, tomatoes and herbs all come together harmoniously beckoning the tender crab to join their number. The parmesan and crab add a gentle wave of umami, which in combination with the bright backdrop of the sauce somehow manage to comfort and excite the eater all in one delicious mouthful.

Though you can certainly do quite a bit of the slicing and measuring while the water comes to a boil and the pasta cooks, I recommend getting a head start on the prep work so you can whip the sauce components together with as little stress as possible in light of the al dente pasta waiting in the wings and becoming less so as minutes pass. This buttery crab pasta screams to be paired with something to sop up every last drop of the ambrosial sauce such as a nice crusty bread, along with something light and green like an arugula salad with a zippy dressing.

I love a delicious pasta dish that can be on the table in under an hour! This is one of those dishes. Tons of flavor with the tomatoes, lemon, and parsley/tarragon, and a relatively lighter dish. It was perfect for a summer night. Although the title is buttery crab pasta, I find this misleading, as there are only 4 tablespoons of butter in the recipe, and the lemon, tomatoes and tarragon highjack the dish. Of course, the crab is there, but it certainly shares the spotlight with the other ingredients.

When I make this again, I’ll change the way the sauce is made by sautéing the green onion and tomatoes in the butter, then adding the pasta water. I wouldn’t add the Parmesan until the pasta has been added, as it didn’t blend well into the butter/water mixture. I found these instructions odd, but no harm done, I’d just do it differently the next time.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


    1. Crime? Absolutely not. It won’t be the same as the real deal, Ann. But if that’s what you have on hand, I say go for it.

  1. 5 stars
    Absolutely delicious! I used fresh basil (didn’t have chervil). I had purchased a fresh crab and pulled all the meat out, used your suggestion about finding little pieces of shell, worked perfectly and thanks for that tidbit. Will be making this delicious dish often!

    1. Your dish looks amazing, Dawn! We are thrilled that you enjoyed this recipe and that it turned out so well.