Breakfast

Why We’re *Still* Obsessed With Breakfast Pasta

Breakfast pasta is the delicious (and endlessly riffable) treat we all need.

January  6, 2023
Photo by Julia Gartland

Does pasta have a place on the breakfast table? According to recipe developer Olivia Mack McCool the answer to that question couldn’t be simpler—and she has the recipe to prove it.

“I started making this pasta out of sheer necessity,” writes McCool, describing the dish that became known in her home as “Breakfast Pasta.” At the time, McCool was suffering from severe morning sickness, which left her unable to enjoy many of her favorite foods. The combination of pasta, butter, and egg, however, still held promise.

“When I was pregnant, during the first trimester, I had horrible morning sickness and just about all food made me nauseous,” McCool says. “Buttered pasta was one of the only things I could stomach. One day, I thought to add an egg to it for protein.”

The dish ended up being a staple throughout the rest of her pregnancy. It was filling, incredibly quick to make, and used ingredients she always had on hand.

So what exactly is breakfast pasta? In McCool’s version, drained pasta (any short shape will do) gets added back to the still-hot pan it was cooked in—along with a generous hunk of butter. Once the butter is mostly melted, just crack an egg into the pan and stir the whole concoction vigorously. The residual heat from the pasta and pan cooks the egg, while the emulsification of the egg and butter creates a glossy sauce. Top the saucy, coated pasta with a sprinkle of everything bagel seasoning, and you’ve got a solid breakfast (or lunch, or dinner).

Avid home cooks will likely recognize this technique—of using egg to create a silky pasta sauce—as the same principle behind a Roman-style carbonara. However, where carbonara employs pork (typically guanciale or pancetta) and a generous dose of cheese (often Pecorino or Parmesan), McCool keeps her ingredient list as simple and no-frills as possible to save herself from extra trips to the supermarket or specialty butcher.

“I make carbonara all the time. I love carbonara,” McCool says, elaborating on the technique behind her recipe. “That was what my Italian dad made us when we didn’t have a lot of time.”

The idea of taking carbonara—in all of its bacony, eggy goodness—and turning it into a breakfast dish is not an entirely new one. The Kitchn’s version substitutes white cheddar for the traditional Pecorino or Parm. Alton Brown’s recipe, adapted for The New York Times, incorporates breakfast sausage, scallions, and a panko breadcrumb topping. And in 2018, we wrote about champion boxer Laila Ali’s cookbook, Food for Life—and the breakfast pasta (made with eggs, turmeric, and cheese) she often served to her two young children.

According to McCool, the reason for the dish's enduring popularity is simple: “I think people like something that is super simple to make but wows them when they take a bite,” she says. “Good quality ingredients and simple techniques and you can feed yourself quite well.”

Ready to try breakfast pasta for yourself? Find the recipe below—and be sure to tell us what you think.


Do you eat pasta for breakfast? Share your thoughts in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Anabelle Doliner

Written by: Anabelle Doliner

Staff Editor

14 Comments

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Theresa January 29, 2023
I love breakfast pasta. Whenever I boil dried pasta for dinner, I make more than the recipe requires so I can have leftover cooked pasta to use for a quick but delicious breakfast (or lunch!). I sauté it in a pan with some olive oil and/or butter, and whatever veggies I have, add an egg, and maybe some grated cheese, at the end, and... heaven!
 
dona January 29, 2023
Just know, this recipe makes A LOT of pasta! I used a cup (and not a heaping cup) of macaroni and my husband had to finish it. A cup of dried pasta is 4.5 ounces, so way more than your average serving. Tried it for lunch instead of breakfast, and it sure was tasty.
 
DVE January 12, 2023
Pastina for breakfast was what we grew up with - it was right next to cream of wheat or rice. Never sweetened, a little butter and cheese was all it needed. The perfect food for babies and toddlers - or anyone who needed a hug.
 
Lorraine N. January 27, 2023
I grew up eating pastina for breakfast too! I still make it every now & again. I was never big on breakfast but this was one of my favorites and brings back great memories of my grandmother, who loved it as well, and was the one who made it for me.
 
aerotica January 8, 2023
I've been eating pasta for breakfast for forty years - leftover tuna casserole, leftover spaghetti, leftover beef or chicken with gravy on noodles......
 
kantcould January 8, 2023
I like the idea of a pasta breakfast dish but I would never freshly boil pasta in the morning just for the sake of making the dish. Now if you test out a recipe geared to using leftover pasta (differing cuts) which I frequent have on hand (or could purposely amplify for a dinner dish one night), I would be very interested.
Thanks
 
neenem February 27, 2023
idiots mishmash:
saute whatever's on hand: onions, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, spinach... with the leftover pasta
when veggies are soft, scramble in an egg (per person)
when egg(s) set, add grated parmesan (or whatever cheese you have)
Keep cooking and stirring, I like when the eggs get a little stiff and the pasta a little crunchy
Serve with hot sauce (and more cheese) if that's your jam
 
debplusthree January 7, 2023
I love the idea of pasta for breakfast and this looks amazing, I can’t wait to try it!!!
 
Sybil B. January 29, 2023
I lovre Pasta anytime. Dream of it for breakfast. Thje best way to start the day.
 
Jackie January 7, 2023
Bacony? Jeez . . .