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OPINION | FRONT BURNER: 3 key ingredients create pasta called da bomb

by Kelly Brant | September 15, 2021 at 6:46 a.m.
Pasta With Butter and Parmesan garnished with parmesan, red pepper flakes and black pepper (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

You're going to want to save this recipe, at least until you've committed it to memory.

It's that good and so, so simple.

So simple it sounds too good to be true, like one of those recipes food bloggers and Instagramers gush: OMG, y'all! This is the BEST pasta. EVAR!!!!!!!!! So yummy. Heart emoji, unicorn emoji, drooling smiley face emoji, rainbow, fire.

But seriously, it really is good and could become your go-to on those days when there's nothing to cook.

You'll need just three ingredients (technically five if you count water and salt) and they're all right in the name: Pasta With Butter and Parmesan.

Pasta With Butter and Parmesan garnished with parmesan, red pepper flakes and black pepper  (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
Pasta With Butter and Parmesan garnished with parmesan, red pepper flakes and black pepper (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

Of course you can use more — a little garlic, black pepper and crushed red-pepper flakes will take this recipe from delicious to da bomb. But even made with just the original three ingredients, this recipe is quite good — and so easy and simple.

The sauce is a combination of butter and parmesan mashed to a paste and then whisked with a bit of the pasta's cooking water. That's all there is to it. The secrets are using good parmesan that you grate yourself and not skimping on the pasta water.

The hot pasta water melts the butter and parmesan, producing a silky sauce that clings to and soaks into the cooked pasta.

I was doubtful when I came across the recipe in "Dinner Uncomplicated: Fixing a Delicious Meal Every Night of the Week" by Claire Tansey. In the book, Tansey describes it as "the most delicious bowl of pasta I can imagine." But then I remembered it was in the Canadian author's first cookbook, "Uncomplicated: Taking the Stress Out of Home Cooking," that I first read about ricotta gnocchi ... the best gnocchi, in my opinion.

So I gave the recipe a try. I was not disappointed. The recipe quickly became a favorite. And it lends itself to endless variation, so it never gets old.

[Video not showing above? Click here to watch: arkansasonline.com/915burner]

Pasta With Butter and Parmesan (Pasta al Burro con Parmigiana)

  • Salt
  • 8 ounces any dried pasta such as spaghetti, fettuccine, rigatoni or rotini
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 ounce freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
  • Optional additional ingredients: Coarsely ground black pepper, garlic, crushed red-pepper flakes

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add about 2 teaspoons salt to the boiling water and then add the pasta. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente, about 9 minutes for spaghetti.

Meanwhile, in a large serving bowl, mash the butter and parmesan together to form a paste. About a minute before the pasta is done, whisk 2 to 4 tablespoons of the pasta water into the butter-parmesan paste, whisking until completely smooth. Using tongs or a pasta ladle, transfer the cooked pasta directly from the pot to the bowl. Using tongs, vigorously stir and toss the pasta until thoroughly coated with the sauce. Serve immediately garnished with more cheese and ground black pepper or red pepper, as desired.

Makes 2 main dish servings.

Recipe adapted from "Dinner Uncomplicated" by Claire Tansey

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