Kids and kids-at-heart can’t resist this oh-so-simple yet ah-so-delicious spaghetti that our daughter, Celia, begs me to make for her. If by some miracle there are any leftovers, I pack them in her lunch. Given the chance, she’ll even have it for breakfast. I often serve it with roasted asparagus.–Aviva Goldfarb

What can I add to plain pasta?

We’re all for simplicity. But to lend a little more oomph to this pasta for not-so-picky palates, consider author Aviva Goldfarb’s suggestions to serve it with a pinch of black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, toasted pine nuts, canned clams, or crumbled bacon. Um, one at a time, please.

A wooden bowl filled with pasta with butter and Parmesan on a brown linen cloth.

Pasta with Butter and Parmesan

4.77 / 17 votes
Pasta with butter and Parmesan appeals to nearly everyone. This pasta’s brilliance lies in it’s simplicity, universal appeal, and endless add-in options.
David Leite
Servings6 to 8 servings
Calories434 kcal
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time20 minutes


  • 1 (16 oz) package spaghetti
  • 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 oz) butter
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons minced garlic, (about 4 to 6 cloves), or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, for serving


  • Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions.
  • After the spaghetti has been cooking for about 5 minutes, heat the butter and olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. After the butter has melted, stir in the garlic and cook just until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds. Reduce the heat to low and keep warm.

    ☞ TESTER TIP: Reserve about 1/2 cup of pasta water before draining the pasta, in case you need a little liquid to help bring everything together when combining the pasta with the garlic butter.

  • Drain the spaghetti, return it to the pot, and stir in the garlic butter and the salt. Toss with the parsley, if using, and serve with the Parmesan on the side. Originally published April 22, 2010.
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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 434 kcalCarbohydrates: 58 gProtein: 11 gFat: 17 gSaturated Fat: 6 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2 gMonounsaturated Fat: 9 gTrans Fat: 0.2 gCholesterol: 20 mgSodium: 275 mgPotassium: 210 mgFiber: 3 gSugar: 2 gVitamin A: 642 IUVitamin C: 7 mgCalcium: 63 mgIron: 1 mg

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

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2010 Aviva Goldfarb. Photo © 2010 Nolonely. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This is a good weeknight staple. Easy, quick, and made from pretty much what one has on hand in the pantry. It’s quite garlicky for my liking, so the next time I make it I’ll cut the garlic back by half. I added cracked black pepper to this instead of pepperoncino and a bit of the pasta cooking water to make it a bit saucier. I also added the cheese to the pasta prior to tossing and served extra alongside, as I’m a cheese fiend. I served some grilled garlic shrimp and rapini along with this and it made for a satisfying and quick meal.

Pasta with butter is every Italian kid’s favourite meal! To be honest, it is still a guilty pleasure of mine. There is nothing more comforting and it is literally one of the fastest things to cook. This is just a slightly more “adult” version with the addition of garlic and parsley, but the great thing about it is that it is simple enough to customize to your own taste. It is perfect for a weeknight…or late night…or when you’re starving and can’t be bothered to cook anything that requires any effort. This simple pasta with butter and Parmesan has, and always will be, a staple in our house.

Finally a dish my son LOVED! He’s 13 years old and the pickiest kid I’ve ever known. He ate this pasta with butter and Parmesan so fast I didn’t even see it go. He had seconds, then thirds. I barely got any and had to make it again the next day. A solid winner I’d say.

The recipe was right on—I used the amounts indicated with no problems. I used the garlic press for this because I wanted to make sure it was small enough to not see, rather than chop and have some larger pieces. The salt was Pink Himalayan Rock salt. I chopped the parsley but didn’t pack it in the 1/2 cup measure because I was concerned my son wouldn’t eat it if there was too much “green”. I just filled 1/2 cup as is and it was the perfect amount. Super easy.

I’m always looking for an interesting side to serve, and this one didn’t disappoint. I had a shrimp dish (with garlic, of course) that needed a side, and this one seemed perfect. Bonus points for a quick prep time and pantry-handy ingredients.

Everything about this pasta with butter and Parmesan is super easy, and no unusual ingredients. You can even substitute dried parsley, although the taste won’t be the same. I highly recommend using fresh garlic for the best flavor since it’s the main flavor focus here. Another great feature of this recipe is the ability to adjust without it failing: more/less garlic, more/less salt, cheese or no cheese, etc. Make it once, and you can tweak as desired later. I believe this will be one to make over and over again.

I adjusted the process slightly in that I added the pasta to the skillet with butter rather than adding the butter to the pasta pot. Fortunately, you can’t go wrong either way you do it.

As a leftover, this also works well. Good for those who cook extra to have leftovers on hand for later. I found the best way to reheat is by microwaving. Add a bit of liquid if needed: water, butter, or a bit of cream work well. If you plan to use some as leftovers, I recommend adding the cheese to the individual servings and resisting the urge to add it in to the whole recipe. Stray cheese doesn’t reheat well.

What can I say about a simply delicious spaghetti dish? Bring it on! This recipe does just that. It’s the spaghetti version of garlic bread except the leftovers are totally useable the next day.

I made the recipe as is then added arugula to the spaghetti in the last minute of cooking and crushed pepper flakes. These additions provided colour, flavour, and shaved a bit of the potential carb load remorse. Served my spaghetti as a side to paprika smoked chicken legs. It was a great flavour combination. Honestly, you can serve this alone or pair with almost anything and it would be great. Go for it!

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has 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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