Simple and Delicious Buttered Herb Pasta

Buttered Herb Pasta
The Spruce
Prep: 8 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Inactive: 16 mins
Total: 34 mins
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Yield: 8 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
154 Calories
8g Fat
18g Carbs
3g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 154
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 8g 10%
Saturated Fat 5g 23%
Cholesterol 19mg 6%
Sodium 474mg 21%
Total Carbohydrate 18g 6%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 3g
Vitamin C 2mg 10%
Calcium 10mg 1%
Iron 1mg 5%
Potassium 38mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Buttered pasta is a popular choice for young, picky eaters, but this simple recipe featuring fresh herbs turns the basic dish into something that will please the whole family. Buttered herb pasta is a good accompaniment to a variety of entrées, from meatloaf to broiled chicken to fish. Because there are so few ingredients, it's important that you choose a good-quality pasta, preferably one from Italy. Also, make sure the butter is fresh and good-tasting, and that the herbs are fresh and bright green. If you're finishing the dish with Parmesan cheese, it needs to be freshly grated—not the kind from the canister.


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"This pasta dish was easy, and the flavor excellent. The fresh herbs gave it some color and the butter and starchy cooking water made it slightly creamy. The cook time depends on the pasta instructions—be sure to allow time to bring the water to a boil, about 16 minutes for 5 quarts of water." —Diana Rattray

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A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • 16 ounces linguine, or spaghetti

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh parsley

  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil

  • 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. 

    Ingredients for buttered herb pasta

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  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. For 1 pound of pasta, you should use 4 to 5 quarts of water. Add the salt.

    Bring large pot of water to boil and add salt
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  3. Add the linguine or spaghetti and stir. Set the timer for 2 minutes less than the package directions state. You don't want to overcook the pasta, and it's best to start testing the pasta before it's done.

    Cook linguine in pot
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  4. When the timer goes off, taste a strand. It should be tender, but not mushy, with some resistance in the center.

    Test one linguine to see if it is cooked
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  5. Remove 1/3 cup of pasta water and set aside.

    Remove some water out of pasta
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  6. Drain the pasta into a colander.

    Drain pasta
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  7. Return the pasta to the hot pot.

    Add pasta back to pot
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  8. Add the butter, parsley, and basil and toss with tongs. Add some of the pasta cooking water to thicken.

    Butter, parsley, and basil are added to pasta and tossed
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  9. Toss over low heat for a minute or two, and sprinkle with cheese if using. Serve immediately and enjoy!

    Finished buttered herb pasta
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Recipe Variations

  • To make garlic and herb pasta, sauté 4 cloves of minced garlic in the 5 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium-low heat until softened. Add the butter and garlic mixture to the hot drained pasta along with the cooking water and herbs.
  • To make roasted garlic and herb pasta, add 2 heaping tablespoons of roasted garlic to the hot drained pasta along with the cooking water, butter, and herbs. Stir to blend thoroughly.
  • Use different kinds of fresh herbs. Replace the basil with chopped fresh chives, thyme, or oregano, or add extra herbs along with the basil and parsley.
  • For a dairy-free vegan dish, replace the butter with extra-virgin olive oil or a dairy-free butter alternative.

How to Store and Freeze Leftovers

  • Refrigerate cooled leftover buttered herb pasta in airtight containers or zip-close bags for up to 5 days.
  • Freeze buttered herb pasta in airtight containers or freezer bags for up to 3 months.

What Is the Best Way to Chop Fresh Herbs?

Wash the herbs and blot with paper towels to dry. Remove the leaves from the stems, mound them on the cutting board, and then rock a sharp knife over them, moving back and forth, until they are chopped as desired.

How Much Is a Serving of Pasta?

Allow about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of cooked spaghetti or linguine per person.

Why Use the Pasta Cooking Water?

The secret to getting a pasta dish thick and creamy—without the use of cream—is by adding a bit of the water the pasta was cooked in. The leftover cooking water retains some of the salt and starch from the pasta, which, when combined with a fat like butter, makes a silky, smooth sauce and helps the sauce cling to the noodles. Reserve about 1/3 cup of the water before you drain the pasta (putting a measuring cup next to the pot is a good reminder), then slowly add that water to the pasta while you are tossing it in the sauce. You only need as much water as is necessary to reach your desired consistency.

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