*Cozy October is Here!
Here at PWWB, we always crave warm & hearty dishes as the seasons change. This month we’re featuring our favorite comfort food meals to cozy up with on a chilly evening. From long braises to simple, nostalgic flavors – & plenty of pasta! – Cozy October explores the many ways food brings joy & comfort this fall. ♡
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- Your Inner Child Will LOVE Tossing Pasta in a Brown Butter Pasta Sauce!
- Browned Butter Pasta Recipe Highlights
- Key Ingredients
- What Pasta to Use & Tips for Cooking It Perfectly
- How to Make Brown Butter Sauce for Pasta
- Brown Butter FAQs
- Serving Suggestions: Crispy Pan-Roasted Mushrooms & More!
Your Inner Child Will LOVE Tossing Pasta in a Brown Butter Pasta Sauce!
I like to think of this browned butter pasta recipe as Buttered Noodles 2.0. If you grew up eating bowls of buttered noodles, this cozy dish will scratch a nostalgic itch! In true PWWB fashion, we’re kicking things up a notch here for a slightly more grown up version that’s just as comforting as the childhood classic, but perhaps even more delicious.
Rather than simply tossing melted butter into pasta, we start by browning the butter first to develop a more complex, nutty taste. Generous amounts of garlic & fresh herbs add a fragrant flavor to the brown butter pasta sauce, while a splash of lemon juice balances all the richness. Toss in your favorite thin & spirally noodle with generous amounts of parmesan, & dinner is ready no more than 20 minutes later!
This browned butter pasta recipe is quick & comforting, but it also has a certain wow-factor to it. And while it’s super satisfying all on its own, it’s also a beautiful base for a hearty add-on. I like to toss in crispy pan-roasted mushrooms – they’re insanely good! – but roasted chicken, seared scallops, or brown butter shrimp are fab too.
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Browned Butter Pasta Recipe Highlights
You’ll love cozying up with a bowl of brown butter mushroom pasta! It’s…
ADULT COMFORT FOOD. Just as comforting as a bowl of buttered noodles from your childhood, but with a little more wow-factor. Browned butter, al dente pasta, garlic, & fragrant fresh herbs…what’s not to love about that?!
QUICK & EASY. You need just 6 ingredients to make this brown butter pasta recipe, & it cooks up in 20 minutes or less. The perfect lazy dinner!
RESTAURANT-WORTHY. Brown butter sauce is so simple to prepare, but when you infuse it with garlic, fresh herbs, & lemon juice, your kitchen will start to feel like your favorite pasta joint. Add some beautiful wild mushrooms & toss with your favorite twirly pasta for a decadent at-home dinner.
We’re never too old to eat buttered noodles for dinner! ♡ Read on to learn more about how to make Brown Butter Pasta with Crispy Mushrooms, or jump straight to the recipe & get cooking!
Note: Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.
The thing I love most about this brown butter pasta dish is that it feels totally restaurant-worthy, but it’s super simple to prepare. You need just 6 basic ingredients – 7 if you add a crispy mushroom topping.
- Pasta – Since brown butter pasta sauce is light in texture, it’s best paired with a thin, long pasta. Choose whatever you love – more details in the Recipe Notes, below!
- Unsalted butter – Since it’s the star of the show, use a great, high-quality butter. I often opt for Irish or European-style butter, which has a higher butterfat content than standard American butter.
- Aromatics – Generous amounts of garlic & fresh herbs infuse the brown butter pasta sauce with amazing fragrant flavor. Use hardy herbs, like thyme, oregano, rosemary, or fresh sage, which won’t scorch in the sauce.
- Lemon – For a little brightness to help balance out the richness of the brown butter sauce.
- Parmesan – Grated cheese enhances the nutty flavor of the browned butter, & also helps bind the sauce to the pasta.
- Mushrooms – These crispy pan-roasted mushrooms are my favorite topping for brown butter pasta. I think it’s worth splurging on really beautiful wild mushrooms like maitake (pictured), oyster, or chanterelle mushrooms, but simple white button or cremini will also do the trick!
Prep Tips to Set You Up for Success
This recipe comes together really quickly once everything gets cooking, & there are a few key moments when the brown butter pasta sauce needs your undivided attention. Rather than multi-tasking cooking with ingredient prep, take a moment to get everything ready before you start. Clean & trim the mushrooms, juice the lemons, chop the aromatics, & measure the cheese ahead of time to help ensure cooking goes as smoothly as possible.
What Pasta to Use & Tips for Cooking It Perfectly
Best pasta for brown butter sauce? ⇢ Since brown butter pasta sauce is light in texture, it’s best paired with a thin, long pasta like linguine, spaghetti alla chitarra (flat spaghetti), or even tagliatelle. My personal favorite is Fusilli col Buco (pictured), a long spiral pasta with a hole down the middle for the best bouncy texture. Or, if you’re up for a kitchen project, make your own fresh pasta.
How to cook pasta perfectly? ⇢ Always cook pasta in generously salted boiling water, as it’s the only chance we have to season the pasta itself. The goal is to cook to al dente (i.e. the pasta is cooked through, but it still has a little bite). Check the package instructions for exact timing – al dente cooking time differs based on the pasta shape you choose.
Don’t forget! ⇢ Before you drain the pasta, reserve at least a cup of the pasta water – it comes in handy in building a brown butter pasta sauce with the perfect light & creamy texture. Drain the pasta, but do not rinse it. Doing so washes all the starches off the surface of the pasta & prevents the brown butter pasta sauce from readily clinging to the pasta.
More tips & tricks! 🤓 ⇢ Learn more about How to Cook Pasta Perfectly (Every Time!).
How to Make Brown Butter Sauce for Pasta
Even though it feels pretty fancy, preparing a restaurant-quality brown butter pasta sauce at home is honestly the simplest thing to make. The most difficult part about it is the timing. Even though it happens quickly, there’s no need to let the pace intimidate you. Remember, you’re in control!
Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Once it’s melted, you’ll see foam develop on the surface of the butter & you’ll hear it begin to sizzle & pop – this is exactly what we’re looking for at this point! Tip! ⇢ If you’re new to browning butter, it’s really helpful to use a light-colored pan or skillet. Its light surface makes it easier to see the color of the butter change from golden to browned.
Brown the butter. Cook the melted butter a few minutes longer, gently swirling or stirring occasionally to prevent burning. You’ll notice the foamy appearance & sizzling noise begin to disappear as the butter turns from a golden color to dark amber. Why? ⇢ As the butter cooks, its milk solids present toast as a result of the Maillard reaction, creating a richer, nuttier flavor & a beautifully browned color.
Finish the browned butter sauce by carefully adding garlic, fresh herbs, & lemon juice. The warm butter blooms the aromatics pretty quickly, filling your kitchen with the most mouthwatering smell. Cook for one minute longer, then add in the pasta.
Toss the brown butter pasta. Add the al dente pasta directly into the skillet with the browned butter sauce, tossing to combine well. For a restaurant-worthy dish, always let pasta cook with sauce for a few minutes. Finishing touches! ⇢ If you want to loosen up the brown butter pasta sauce a little bit, add some of the reserved pasta water. If it needs to tighten up a little, add in a handful of grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheeses. Once it’s to your liking, you’re ready to serve!
Brown Butter FAQs
What is brown butter?
Brown butter is simply regular butter that’s been cooked long enough to release some of the natural water content & toast the milk solids found in the butter. There’s a lot of interesting cooking chemistry involved in browning butter but, in short, the butter’s milk solids toast as a result of the Maillard reaction, creating a richer, nuttier flavor & a beautiful browned appearance.
Does brown butter make a difference?
When it comes to flavor, Y-E-S! Brown butter is 100% more flavorful than plain melted butter because the heat helps develop a more complex & rich flavor via a chemical process called the Maillard reaction.
What does brown butter taste like?
Browned butter tastes like next-level butter – it has beautiful richness, with nutty & toasty notes.
How long does it take to brown butter?
This particular brown butter pasta sauce starts with a scorching hot pan (more on that below!), which helps move things along quickly. As a result, the whole process of browning butter only takes about 2 minutes. If you don’t start with a hot pan, plan for it taking a few extra minutes, about 4-5 minutes total.
How can you tell if the brown butter is burnt?
The butter has burned if the milk solids cook past the point of brown. The butter will look black instead of amber or browned. Unfortunately, there’s no coming back from this. But the good news is you can easily start over! Carefully drain the burnt butter, wipe the pan clean, & give it another try.
Can you make browned butter with non-dairy butter?
Yes! You can use your favorite high-quality plant-based butter to keep this recipe entirely vegan. It may take a little longer to brown, but that’s ok! The general technique is the same. See the Recipe Note for more vegan brown butter pasta tips.
Serving Suggestions: Crispy Pan-Roasted Mushrooms & More!
To serve, simply portion the browned butter pasta into bowls. Finishing with an extra sprinkling of grated cheese & baby sage leaves or finely chopped fresh basil or parsley is always a good idea, too. You’ll certainly love it as-is, but since it’s such a simple dish, I also like to prep a hearty add-in.
Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.
My go-to: Crispy Pan-Roasted Mushrooms. ⇢ Before you start cooking the pasta or brown butter sauce, heat some olive oil in a skillet & toss the mushrooms in. Cook 12-15 minutes, stirring minimally, until deeply golden brown. This method results in the best texture – tender but not mushy, with crispy browned edges. For extra wow-factor, finish them with a sprinkling of flaky salt & a quick squeeze of fresh lemon juice. I swear, even if you don’t like mushrooms, you’ll love these!
Other Easy Add-Ins. ⇢ If you don’t care for mushrooms or you’d like a little more protein, there are a ton of variations you can adopt to make it your own. A few ideas to get you started…
- Other veggies – Sauté up some thick hearty of asparagus or thick-cut planks of zucchini.
- Shrimp – An easy & quick-cooking addition. For next-level flavor, cook the shrimp in browned butter with a little garlic.
- Scallops – I love how the natural sweetness of scallops pairs with a decadent brown butter pasta. Check out our guide on How to Sear Scallops for a full breakdown of everything you need to know to make pan-seared scallops in 10 minutes or less.
- Steak – Slightly more indulgent, but delicious nonetheless. Try our Herb Butter Basted Cast Iron Steaks for the ultimate at-home dinner.
From there, simply twirl a bunch of buttery, garlicky, noodles on your fork, cozy up, & enjoy!
I can’t wait for you to try this Browned Butter Pasta with Crispy Mushrooms! It’s so special-feeling, but couldn’t be quicker & simpler to make. Your inner child will LOVE this take on buttered noodles!
If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations! ♡ Happy cooking!
More Recipes Like This:
Quick & Cozy Pasta Recipes
I like to think of this browned butter pasta recipe as Buttered Noodles 2.0. If you grew up eating bowls of buttered noodles, this cozy dish will scratch a nostalgic itch!
In true PWWB fashion, we’re kicking things up a notch here for a slightly more grown up version that’s just as comforting as the childhood classic, but perhaps even more delicious:
- Brown butter: Rather than simply tossing melted butter into pasta, we start by browning the butter first to develop a more complex, nutty taste. If you’ve never browned butter before, there’s no need to be intimidated. Be sure to reference the blog post, above, for lots more tips, tricks, & info to get you started.
- Aromatics: The brown butter pasta sauce is infused with generous amounts of aromatics – garlic, fresh herbs like sage & thyme, & a little lemon to balance out the richness.
- Pan-roasted mushrooms: These crispy delights are a totally optional add-in, but I can’t recommend them enough. They’re roasted over high heat until they’re tender & gloriously browned. I swear, even if you don’t like mushrooms, you’ll love these, but if you want a couple other add-in ideas, refer to the blog post above.
Your inner child will LOVE this take on buttered noodles, I can’t wait for you to try! ♡
- 8 ounces fusilli col buco or long pasta of choice (see Recipe Notes)
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick, 8 tablespoons), diced into ¼ tablespoon cubes
- 2 lemons, juiced (approx. 2 tablespoons juice)
- 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs (thyme, sage, oregano, etc.)
- 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
- for serving, as desired: crispy pan-roasted mushrooms (below), grated parmesan, finely chopped fresh herbs, etc.
for the crispy pan-roasted mushrooms:
- 16 ounces maitake mushrooms or mushrooms of choice, trimmed & torn or sliced into bite-sized pieces
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 lemon, juiced
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
- flaky sea salt, to finish
- Prep to time it all out: Once you begin cooking, this brown butter pasta recipe comes together pretty quickly with a couple of very time-critical steps. Read the recipe in full to get a sense of its flow, then prep by getting the chopping, measuring & other prep odds & ends out of the way so cooking is a smooth process: bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil, juice the lemons, grate/chop the garlic, chop the fresh herbs, measure the cheese, etc. Place everything within an arm’s reach from the stovetop.
- Cook the crispy pan-roasted mushrooms: Add the olive oil to a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. If available, a skillet with a lighter colored cooking surface is preferred. Once hot & shimmering, add the mushrooms. Stir to coat then cook, stirring occasionally, until deeply browned & golden, about 12-15 minutes. At about the 10 minute mark, season the mushrooms with about 1 teaspoon kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Transfer the browned mushrooms to a plate. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice & a good sprinkling of flaky sea salt. Set aside for serving.
- Boil the pasta: With about 5 minutes of cooking time left on the mushrooms, drop the pasta. Add the pasta to the boiling salted water & cook, stirring occasionally, to al dente according to package directions. Carefully dip a liquid measuring cup into the pot, reserving about 1 cup of the starchy pasta water, and set aside. Drain the pasta but do NOT rinse it! (Learn more ⇢ How to Cook Pasta Perfectly Every Single Time!)
- Prepare the brown butter sauce: No more than 2 minutes before the pasta is ready to drain, begin preparing the brown butter sauce. Carefully wipe out the skillet used to cook the mushrooms & return to medium heat. Add the butter. Once it’s completely melted, it will look foamy & it will begin to sizzle & pop. Swirling the pan occasionally, continue to cook the butter. After 2-3 minutes, the sizzling & popping will slow down as the butter browns. Reduce heat to medium-low as soon as the butter is amber in color & smells nutty. Quickly & carefully add in the lemon juice, garlic, & fresh herbs. The mixture will bubble up immediately. Cook, stirring often, 1 minute longer, until the brown butter sauce is very fragrant.
- Toss the brown butter pasta: Working quickly, add the drained pasta to the skillet with the brown butter sauce. Pour in about 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water & sprinkle the grated parmesan cheese over the pasta. Toss to combine well, the brown butter sauce should evenly coat the pasta. Add in some of the reserved pasta water if the brown butter sauce needs to loosen up a little; add in an extra handful of parmesan if it needs to tighten up a little. Cook 1-2 minutes longer, allowing the pasta to meld with the brown butter sauce. Remove from the heat.
- Serving: Just before serving, toss the crispy pan-roasted mushrooms into the pasta. Portion the brown butter mushroom pasta into individual bowls, topping with with additional grated parmesan & chopped fresh herbs as desired. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
- Ingredient Notes:
- Best pasta for brown butter pasta: Lighter sauces, like brown butter pasta sauce, are traditionally paired with lighter pastas. While I wouldn’t go as light as capellini (angel hair) for this recipe, linguine, spaghetti, & spaghetti alla chitarra (flat spaghetti) are all fantastic options. I typically opt for long, hollow pasta as it adds the best bouncy texture to an otherwise simple dish – try bucatini (tubular spaghetti) or look for fusilli col buco (a long, hollow spiral-shaped pasta, pictured) for an extra-special treat. If you prefer to use short pasta, try fusilli or cavatappi as their spiral shapes will both capture the brown butter sauce deliciously.
- Recommended mushrooms: Since the rest of the dish is relatively simple, I like to splurge for really beautiful wild mushrooms for the crispy pan-roasted wild mushrooms – maitake (pictured), oyster, chanterelle, & shiitake are all great. If you prefer a more cost-effective option, simple white button mushrooms or cremini (baby bella) mushrooms work great. Use what you love most or what’s most readily available to you!
- Vegetarian &/or vegan brown butter pasta: This brown butter pasta recipe is naturally meatless. For a vegetarian version, be sure to use your favorite rennet-free parmesan. To take it a step further & make it vegan, opt for your favorite non-dairy parmesan & use your favorite high-quality vegan butter. Learn more about vegan browned butter.
- Storage & Reheating: Leftover brown butter pasta with mushrooms will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days. Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave, adding an extra splash of water or cooking stock to loosen up the brown butter sauce as needed, until warmed through.
- 10-Minute Meal Prep: Nearly all of the active prep work for this brown butter mushroom recipe comes from prepping the mushrooms. To get this prep work out of the way for dinnertime, simply clean, trim & prep the mushrooms as indicated in the Ingredients List, above. Place them in a paper towel-lined bowl & store in the main compartment of your refrigerator for up to 5 days. (10 minutes active prep)
Keywords: brown butter pasta sauce, brown butter pasta, brown buttered pasta, brown butter pasta recipe
Recipe & Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.