Caramelized Cabbage Butter Pasta

updated Jul 13, 2023
Caramelized Cabbage Butter Pasta Recipe

This buttery caramelized cabbage isn't just perfect with pasta — try it piled onto toast, with eggs, or in sandwiches and wraps.

Serves2 to 4

Prep10 minutes

Cook40 minutes to 50 minutes

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Credit: Photo: Paola + Murray; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

I’m not exaggerating when I say I made Smitten Kitchen’s zucchini butter spaghetti at least 15 times. I loved how it took a boatload of zucchini and transformed it into a simple (yet flavor-packed!) vegetarian dinner. As the winter months approaches, the bounty of summer veggies turns into a bleak array of potatoes, cabbage, and winter squash, I wanted to find a way to keep making the magic that is zucchini butter pasta, but with an in-season veggie. Behold: caramelized cabbage butter pasta.

The method I use here is exactly the same as the zucchini version: Sweat some shallots and garlic in butter, then cook down a ton of sliced cabbage in the butter sauce until caramelized and jammy. Mix in some al dente pasta, pasta water, and grated Parm, then finish it all off with a fresh herb. The biggest difference is that cabbage is slightly tougher than zucchini, which means it will need more time to cook down and caramelize.

Credit: Photo: Paola + Murray; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

Few Ways To Switch It Up

  • Change up the pasta shape: Don’t like rigatoni? Opt for penne, fusilli, or any short pasta shape with ridges or twists to catch all the flavor.
  • Or skip the pasta altogether: Pile the caramelized cabbage butter onto toast, stuff it into sandwiches and wraps, or enjoy it alongside eggs.
  • Use any fresh, tender herb: Instead of chives, you can brighten up the dish with dill, parsley, basil, or mint.
  • Add protein: Serve your pasta topped with crispy chicken, tofu, or chickpeas.
  • Double up: Doubling the recipe means you get to use the whole head of cabbage.

Caramelized Cabbage Butter Pasta Recipe

This buttery caramelized cabbage isn't just perfect with pasta — try it piled onto toast, with eggs, or in sandwiches and wraps.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 40 minutes to 50 minutes

Serves 2 to 4

Nutritional Info


  • 1/2

    medium head cabbage (1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds), preferably green

  • 1

    medium shallot

  • 3 to 4

    large cloves garlic

  • 6 tablespoons

    (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more for the pasta water

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

  • 8 ounces

    dried rigatoni, penne, or fusilli pasta

  • 1

    small bunch fresh chives

  • 2 ounces

    Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving


  1. Cut the core from 1/2 medium head cabbage and discard. Place the cabbage cut-side down on the cutting board and thinly slice (5 to 6 cups). Peel and thinly slice 1 medium shallot (about 1/2 cup). Mince 3 to 4 large garlic cloves until you have about 2 tablespoons.

  2. Melt 6 tablespoons unsalted butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

  3. Add the cabbage, season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and toss to coat in the butter. Cook over medium to medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is meltingly tender and dark golden-brown, 20 to 25 minutes. If you notice a lot of browning on the pan, turn the heat down slightly and stir the cabbage around. If there are burnt bits at the bottom of the pan, add a couple tablespoons of water to loosen them up.

  4. Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of heavily salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add 8 ounces dried short pasta and cook accordingly to package directions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta. Thinly slice 1 small bunch chives (about 1/4 cup). Grate 2 ounces Parmesan cheese on the small holes of a box grater until you have 1/2 cup, and grate more for serving if desired.

  5. When the cabbage is ready, add the pasta and Parmesan. Add 2/3 cup of the reserved pasta water and toss over medium heat until a thin, glossy sauce forms. Add more pasta water 1 tablespoon at a time as needed (you might not use it all). Add the chives and toss to combine. Taste and season with more kosher salt and black pepper as needed. Serve garnished with more Parmesan if desired.

Recipe Notes

Shredded cabbage: 1 pound store-bought shredded cabbage can be used instead of the whole cabbage.

Make ahead: The cabbage can be cooked up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated. Rewarm in a skillet before adding the pasta and finishing the cooking.

Substitutions: Any fresh, tender herb such as dill, parsley, basil, or mint can be substituted for the chives. Red cabbage can be used instead of green, but the finished dish will be a dark purple/brown color.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.