Everyday Cooking

Penne with Herb Butter and Peas

July  9, 2013

Merrill's baby Clara has quite the appetite -- and it's all Merrill can do to keep up. Armed with her greenmarket bag, a wooden spoon and a minimal amount of fuss, she steps into the fray.

Today: Pasta with butter -- the greenmarket edition.

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Everyone knows that even the pickiest kid will eat pasta with butter. It's on pretty much every children's menu there is. Many argue that it has earned this status because of what it doesn't offer, rather than what it does. Naysayers point to its blandness, its colorlessness, its lack of textural complexity. All fair points. But I'd counter with this: what adult, confronted with a bowl of generously buttered penne or linguine, or even elbow macaroni, wouldn't feel at least a small surge of joy?

I will concede that none of us should be eating pasta and butter every day, multiple times a day -- including our children. But that's not to say there isn't a time and a place, especially when the pasta contains some other elements to help lift it above the realm of the white and one-dimensional.

Recently, due to apparently ideal deck planter conditions, I've been finding myself with a lot of fresh herbs on my hands. As part of a quest to let none go to waste, I started making herb butter. It's quick, it's adaptable, and it lasts just as long as pesto in the fridge or freezer. One of the first things I did with it was cook up a batch of penne (Clara's favorite shape, as she can poke her fingers into the ends of the penne), blanch some peas from the greenmarket, and then swirl it all together in a hot pan with some of the herb butter.

I encourage you to use this recipe as a jumping off point. I used parsley and mint for this dish, but you can use any combination of herbs you like for the butter, and feel free to sub in zucchini or cut up green beans or even caramelized onions for the peas. Technically, you'll still end up with pasta with butter -- but it's really so much more.

Penne with Herb Butter and Peas

Serves 4

For the herb butter:

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh herbs of your choice (I used parsley and mint)
Kosher or sea salt to taste

For the penne:

Kosher salt
3/4 cups freshly shelled English peas
1/2 pound penne rigate
Herb butter

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

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I'm a native New Yorker, Le Cordon Bleu graduate, former food writer/editor turned entrepreneur, mother of two, and unapologetic lover of cheese.


EK H. August 9, 2013
Beautiful pictures Merrill - can you tell me where you got the grey backdrop for the photos or the color if it is a paint? Thank you!
Merrill S. August 9, 2013
Thank you, and sorry for the delay getting back to you on this. I asked James, our photographer, who made this backdrop, and he said: "It's Benjamin Moore - Rock Gray #1615. The light and color balance I use when I shoot also affects the color, so it may be hard to match it exactly." Hope this helps!
EK H. August 9, 2013
Merrill - a deep thank you to both yourself and your photographer. I just love that gray - thank you!
Kitchen B. July 24, 2013
Cuteness personified.
Lindsay-Jean H. July 9, 2013
Can't. Handle. The. Cuteness.
marialissio July 9, 2013
She's a beautiful babe Merrill. The photos you have of her at the office as she is growing are beautiful to have that's for sure. How did the white dress fare in the end?
Merrill S. July 9, 2013
Thank you! The white dress came off pretty quickly, and the rest of lunch was eaten in just bloomers.
Kitchen B. July 24, 2013
:-) Mums alike! Same the world over :-). Still do that with my 6 year old. Son.
Marian B. July 9, 2013
"Buttered Pasta" used to be my all-time favorite cafeteria lunch. Thank you for redeeming it!
Paulette M. July 9, 2013
Love your blog!
Merrill S. July 9, 2013
Thank you!