Brown Butter Parmesan Spaghetti

Have you heard of Cacio e Pepe? Other than not really knowing how to pronounce it, it’s also a dish that, strangely, until now, I’ve never been able to prepare successfully.

I say that’s strange because it’s the simplest of simple pasta dishes, supposedly. Spaghetti noodles tossed with Pecorino Romano, black pepper, and a little pasta water. That’s it. And it’s heaven. I’ve enjoyed it when prepared elsewhere by people who know more than me, and it’s just absolutely perfect.

Brown Butter Parmesan Spaghetti | Kitchen Treaty

Anyway, I figured it out, and I feel like a total dork. The cheese should be grated, not shredded. As in, grated on a very very fine grater so that it’s pretty much pulverized, or bought like that in a tub at the store. That’s it. So instead of the cheese evenly disbursing itself throughout the pasta, my freshly shredded cheese would clump together in a big, giant mess. It’d taste okay, but it definitely didn’t look right. And the dishes were h-e-double-hockeysticks to clean.

Yup. Grated cheese. That’s it.

So basically, I solved my Cacio e Pepe mystery when developing this dish, which is a tiny bit more complex, but not by much. I add nutty browned butter and Parmesan instead of Pecorino Romano. Not only does it work perfectly, it’s also utterly delicious in its simplicity.

Brown Butter Parmesan Spaghetti | Kitchen Treaty

Sometimes I like to throw a smattering of fresh basil in and/or top my portion with halved cherry tomatoes and sometimes I top my guy’s portion with chopped cooked bacon. It’s also pretty awesome as-is.

Either way, it’s on the table in 20 minutes from start to finish, and it is so, so good. Spaghetti noodles cooked perfectly al dente, salty Parmesan cheese, cracked black pepper, and that distinctly rich and aromatic quality that only brown butter lends to a dish.

Brown Butter Parmesan Spaghetti | Kitchen Treaty

Cheesy, easy heaven.

Print Recipe

Brown Butter Parmesan Spaghetti

Nutty brown butter, grated Parmesan cheese, and pasta water mingle with al dente spaghetti to create pure magic. Best of all, this dish is ready in a matter of minutes.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons butter (I use unsalted, but salted is also fine)
  • 1/2 pound (8 ounces) spaghetti noodles
  • 1/4 cup pasta water + more if necessary (don't throw it out!)
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (not shredded) + more for topping if desired
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Recommended (but optional) toppings for a little variation: fresh chopped basil, cooked chopped bacon, halved cherry tomatoes

Directions:

  1. In a small, thick-bottomed pan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Continue cooking the butter over medium heat, whisking frequently, until the foam subsides and the butter begins to turn brown and smell nutty, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat immediately and set aside. Note: It is really easy to burn brown butter, so watch it carefully. It turns brown really fast (and can also burn really fast!)
  2. Meanwhile, set a large pot of water to boil. Cook the pasta to al dente per package instructions.
  3. Using tongs, lift the cooked spaghetti noodles out of the water and place in a large pasta bowl. You can drain the noodles in a colander, too, but remember to reserve some of the pasta water! It's crucial for this recipe.
  4. Pour the browned butter and 1/4 cup of the pasta water over the noodles. Sprinkle with Parmesan and add a few turns of freshly ground black pepper. Using the tongs, toss well until all ingredients are incorporated and have mixed to coat the noodles with an almost creamy sauce. Add more pasta water - a couple of tablespoons at a time - if necessary to achieve this.
  5. Top with additional Parmesan cheese if desired. Serve immediately. Top individual portions with basil, bacon, or cherry tomatoes, if desired.

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14 Responses to “Brown Butter Parmesan Spaghetti”

  1. Maria Tadic posted on August 20, 2013 at 11:09 am

    This looks so yummy! It reminds me of the pastina my grandmother used to make for me when I was a kid – lots of butter and cheese. Comfort in a bowl! Can’t wait to try the added bit of black pepper – it’s my favorite spice!

    • jonchann replied on January 7th, 2014 on 5:51 am

      your idea is very good.so i like

  2. Lusine posted on August 20, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    You really can’t go wrong with any combination of butter, pasta, and cheese :). I first made Cacio e Pepe when I saw the recipe on Amateur gourmet and it was so simple and delicious, I can’ wait to try your version!

  3. Rachel @ Bakerita posted on August 21, 2013 at 9:31 am

    This looks so perfectly comforting, and I love how easy it is! I’ll definitely be making this for my housemates and myself this coming fall! :D Pinned!

  4. Kiersten @ Oh My Veggies posted on August 21, 2013 at 11:53 am

    I always buy the shredded parm and I came to that same conclusion about the whole grating thing when making another recipe. So I pulsed it in the food processor until it was grated. :) I LOOOOVE butter + noodles. Such a comfort food!

  5. cassie posted on August 21, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    I love these…I think the brown butter makes butter noodles a little more grown up. Yum!!

  6. OMSR posted on August 23, 2013 at 4:35 am

    Great recipe! Made this last night with whole wheat pasta and added some chicken meatballs. Delicious. Whole family loved it! Thanks

  7. Sarah posted on January 21, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    Looks absolutely delicious! Have you ever been to the Old Spaghetti Factory? They have a spaghetti & mizithra dish which is with browned butter and mizithra cheese (similiar to Parmesan but more flavor) and its absolute heaven.

    • Karen Troughton replied on January 21st, 2014 on 4:30 pm

      Ha, yes! That’s one reason why I need to stay *away* from that restaurant. ;) So. Good.

  8. Julie posted on February 3, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    We just finished eating this pasta and it was light and oh so flavorful! I used a really good quality Parmesan and angel hair pasta and garnished with fresh parsley. A versatile recipe! I’m thinking of adding roasted garlic cloves and sauteed shrimp next time. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. It will be a staple in our home now! :)

    • Karen Troughton replied on February 4th, 2014 on 4:47 am

      I’m so glad you liked it! It’s one of our favorites. So easy and – yep – you can do anything to it! :)

  9. Jessica posted on March 25, 2014 at 3:07 am

    I made this last night, but I added broccoli that had been roasted with grated parm and red pepper flakes. The sauce was very easy to prepare, but o felt like something was missing. I think I was expecting it to taste like Alfredo, but it’s missing that creamy element. Its more buttery, almost oily. Needed a lot of salt too, but maybe it was the brand of parm I used. I might make this again, the presentation was gorgeous with the bright green broccoli.

  10. Msjbelle posted on March 25, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    This looks scrumptious. I wish I had a huge bowl of it right now.

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