For the best garlic butter sauce for pasta, use way more garlic than you’d think. This recipe serves two people and calls for a whole head—and nope, it’s not a mistake. When sizzled in melted butter until golden and toasty, this ingredient goes from sharp and bracing to warm and cozy, the sort of savory flavor that’s hard to overdo.
Make sure that, once it’s done cooking, you don’t drain the pasta into a colander. We want that salty, starchy water on call to bump up the seasoning and loosen the sauce as needed. It’ll thicken as it sits at the table, so err on the side of saucier than not.
The optional bonuses are just that: totally optional. As in all Big Little Recipes, less is more here. Opt for three picks, tops, so the butter and garlic can shine—they’re the stars of this show. —Emma Laperruque
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Pasta With Garlic Butter
your favorite pasta
Optional bonuses: roughly chopped parsley, red pepper flakes or freshly ground black pepper, or grated Parm
Set a pot of water over high heat to come to a boil. While that’s in the works, peel and mince the garlic cloves.
When the water is boiling, generously season with salt and add the pasta. Cook according to the package instructions, until al dente.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium to medium-low heat, then add the garlic. Sizzle, stirring or swirling occasionally, for 3 to 7 minutes, just until the garlic turns golden. Immediately dump into a serving bowl (the garlic quickly turns from golden and sweet to brown and bitter).
Use a spider or tongs (depending on the shape) to transfer the pasta to the garlic butter. Toss and add pasta water as needed to create a silky sauce. Mix in or top with any bonuses if you’re using them and serve immediately.
Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.