Garlic Butter Pasta

Garlic Pasta

Pete Scherer / The Spruce  

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 20 mins
Servings: 2 servings
Yields: 2 bowls

Garlic butter pasta could hardly be simpler. Toss spaghetti in warm garlicky butter and off you go to carb heaven. People often add cheese to give the dish a little more body and substance, as well as something green for more flavor and a burst of color. The options are endless. But this recipe is a great jumping off point.

This recipe calls for chard and parmesan in addition to the garlic butter, but feel free to omit them or substitute your embellishments. Just remember that the beauty of this dish is its simplicity.


  • 8 ounces spaghetti or bucatini
  • 4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup chard or spinach, roughly chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Set a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Salt the water with roughly one tablespoon of salt per gallon of water. It's okay to estimate. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about eight to ten minutes.

  3. Pour the cooked pasta into a colander to drain and return the pot to the stove over medium heat. Add the butter and the chopped garlic and stir. Avoid browning the garlic. After a minute or two, when the garlic begins to sizzle and soften. Add the chard or spinach (if using) and stir for one minute. Add the cooked pasta back to the pot, along with the grated parmesan, salt and pepper to taste, and toss everything to combine. Serve immediately.


  • Try not to overcook the pasta. Check on it as it's cooking, and drain it just before you think it's perfect. When you taste a noodle and you think to yourself "maybe one more minute," that's the time to pull it off the stove. The noodles will continue to soften as they steam in the colander and then mix with the hot butter in the pot. By the time they're on the plate they will be perfectly al dente.
  • The goals of cooking the garlic butter are to soften the flavor of raw garlic, and to infuse the butter with the garlic's flavor. This doesn't take long, because the tiny pieces of garlic cook quickly. If the garlic cooks too much it may start to turn brown. Browned garlic has an unpleasant bitterness that is best avoided in this dish, so when the garlic butter starts to sizzle, take it off the heat.

Recipe Variations

  • Add green vegetables such as spinach, chard, or broccoli. Leafy greens can be chopped and tossed in as directed in the recipe. But for broccoli, give it a quick steam before tossing with the finished pasta.
  • Herbs such as rosemary, oregano, basil or sorrel also enhance this basic pasta without taking over.
  • Toss buttered pasta with a can of tuna or drained and rinsed chickpeas or white beans for a hearty, protein heavy main.

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