Super Simple & Delicious Cheesy Butter Pasta | Italian “Burro e Parmigiano” Recipe
Updated: Mar 18
This simple, quick and easy pasta dish is a familiar favorite amongst Italians. The sauce is actually the same as the real Italian Alfredo sauce, but most Italians know this dish simply as Burro e Parmigiano: “butter and parmesan.” It’s incredibly easy to make, but don’t let the simplicity fool you! This quick pasta dish is packed with delicious, cheesy flavor. Plus, it’s easy on the digestive system which is why this dish is a go-to comfort food for Italians when they’re ill.
What Kind of Pasta Works Best?
Just about any dry semolina pasta will work with this butter and cheese sauce. Spaghetti, penne, or linguine are excellent choices. We recommend staying away from pastina, or other very tiny pasta shapes, as their small size will result in a thick gloop. If you make this pasta with a very thin, fresh egg fettuccine you will have stumbled upon the real and original recipe for Fettuccine all’Alfredo!
Parmigiano vs. Parmesan
With very simple dishes such as burro e Parmigiano, using high quality ingredients is key. Therefore, we need to stress the importance of avoiding parmesan cheese. Despite popular conception, “parmesan” isn’t just an Anglicized term for the Italian “Parmigiano-Reggiano.” The former is in no way a substitute for the latter. At best, using parmesan will result in a very disappointing flavor. At worst, the preservatives in the so-called “cheese” will gum up and create awful clumps in your pasta.
One notable substitute that can be used (although it’s usually uncommon to find outside of Italy) is Grana Padano cheese. Grana is essentially the same type of cheese, but made to less rigorous and strict standards. In a pasta like this where the cheese really is the flavor, we recommend going with Parmigiano when possible.
The cheese can be pre-grated or you can grate it yourself, either way works!
What’s the Trick?
Super simple pasta dishes are sometimes the trickiest to master. Anyone who has tried to make cacio e pepe before can understand the frustration of trying to get grated cheese to melt into a beautiful, silky sauce. Follow our steps, though, and you’ll easily master this dish!
The trick with this sauce is to first melt the butter in a pan, add the cooked pasta, and stir together vigorously with a ladleful or two of the pasta water. After the pasta is thoroughly coated in butter, turn off the heat and stir in grated Parmigiano cheese. The order of operations is important: don’t add grated cheese into a hot pan of dry pasta!
Butter is a very versatile base for pasta sauces, so there are quite a few variations you can try! Some of the classic offshoots are pasta with butter and anchovies; pasta with butter and sage; and pasta with butter, cheese and saffron. See below after the main recipe, where we’ll share instructions for making them.
Watch the Pasta Grammar video where we make this recipe here:
PASTA BURRO E PARMIGIANO (BUTTER AND CHEESE PASTA) RECIPE
Serves: 2 - you can easily scale it up, just plan on 3.5 oz (100g) of pasta and 2 tbsp. (30g) of butter per serving, and use a large enough pot/skillet for the quantity of pasta desired.
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes
For this recipe, you will need:
7 oz. (200g) dry pasta
4 tbsp. (60g) unsalted butter
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to taste
Pasta fork, slotted spoon, or tongs for removing the pasta from the pot (depending on the shape of your pasta)
Bring a large pot of water to boil and salt it generously. Add the pasta into the pot and set a timer for 3-4 minutes less than the recommended “al dente” cook time.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt the butter over low heat. Add a small ladleful of the boiling pasta water into the pan, just to keep the butter from burning as the pasta cooks.
When the pasta is ready use tongs, a slotted spoon or a spaghetti fork to transfer it into the pan and turn the heat up to medium. Ladle in just enough pasta water to maintain some simmering liquid in the pan. Stir the pasta as it continues to cook, until it is al dente to your taste—about 2-3 minutes.
If needed, just keep adding a little bit more water at a time so that the pasta continues to cook while you stir. Remember: dry pasta doesn’t cook! You don’t want a soup, but you definitely want a little bit of liquid in the pan. Once the pasta is al dente to your liking, turn off the heat.
Grate a generous amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese over the pasta. There is no right amount here, but the general rule of thumb is that there’s rarely such a thing as too much cheese. Stir the cheese in quickly until it melts and coats the pasta.
Serve and top with some drizzled sauce from the pan, along with some extra grated cheese (optional). Eat this pasta immediately, while the cheese is still hot, melted and silky.
Variation #1 - PASTA BURRO E SALVIA (BUTTER AND SAGE PASTA) RECIPE
This classic sauce is a go-to choice when Italians want a very mild, neutral sauce. When would they want such a sauce? When the pasta itself is very flavorful.
To make this sauce, simply melt the butter in a skillet as you would with burro e Parmigiano, but tear in a few sage leaves and let these cook with the butter while the pasta boils. Transfer the cooked ravioli or gnocchi directly into the pan, along with a little pasta water. Gently toss/stir the pasta until it is coated in sauce. Serve immediately, topped with some drizzled sauce and sage leaves from the pan and some grated Parmigiano cheese (optional)
Variation #2 - PASTA BURRO E ALICI (BUTTER AND ANCHOVY PASTA) RECIPE
For those who want a kick of delicious, umami flavor, try this butter sauce variation made with anchovies! We recommend using a long pasta, such as spaghetti or linguine. For each serving of pasta, you’ll want 2-3 anchovies preserved in oil and 2 tbsp. (30g) of room temperature unsalted butter.
Instead of melting the butter in a pan, place it in a mixing bowl and mash it with a spoon or spatula. Dice the anchovies and mix these into the butter. While the pasta is cooking, add a little bit of pasta water into the butter and mix into a creamy sauce.
Cook the pasta until it is al dente, and transfer it directly into the mixing bowl. Stir all together until the sauce coats the pasta. If necessary, you can add a little more pasta water to thin the sauce slightly. Serve immediately, topped with some drizzled sauce from the bowl.
Variation #3 - PASTA BURRO E ZAFFERANO (BUTTER AND SAFFRON PASTA) RECIPE
This decadent pasta has the added wow-factor of saffron! It works well with spaghetti, but it’s also great with tube pasta shapes, such as rigatoni or penne. You’ll need a pinch of saffron and 2 tbsp. (30g) room temperature unsalted butter per serving, along with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to taste.
Soak a pinch of saffron in a few tablespoons of hot water for 20-30 minutes. In a mixing bowl, mix the butter and a few spoonfuls of grated Parmigiano. Pour in the soaked saffron, along with its water, and mix this in as well (it’s ok if the water doesn’t mix into the butter very well yet). Transfer everything from the bowl into a skillet.
From this point on, the pasta is cooked just like burro e Parmigiano. Melt the butter/saffron mix and treat it just as you would the “normal” butter in the previous recipe. Stir in undercooked pasta, cook in the pan with added pasta water until al dente, then turn off the heat and mix in more Parmigiano cheese to taste. Serve immediately, topped with drizzled sauce from the pan and extra cheese (optional).