Kitchn Love Letters

Add This to Pasta Water for the Creamiest Buttered Noodles Ever

published Feb 23, 2024
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Tongs swirling around creamy miso butter pasta in skillet.
Credit: Kelli Foster

To me, a simple bowl of buttered noodles is one of the best comfort foods there is. Buttered noodles are cozy and satisfying, and quick and easy to make with basic ingredients. But while my preschooler would happily gobble this down for dinner on a weekly basis, I want something a little more “grown up.”

I stumbled on the perfect solution one night when I was tired and scrambling to make a single meal that would comfort my sick son and also satisfy my craving for a restaurant-level delicious pasta dinner. I pulled a super-savory miso paste from the back of the fridge, whisked some into starchy pasta water, combined it with melted butter, and tossed it with long strands of pasta. What resulted was not just grown-up buttered noodles, but also one of my all-time favorite pasta dishes and a new family favorite.

Credit: Kelli Foster

What Makes This Recipe So Amazing

This is a unicorn of family-friendly recipes. At the core, these are basically buttered noodles, which means the kid appeal is strong. But thanks to the combo of salty-sweet white miso paste, Parmesan, and starchy pasta water, it has the most velvety, creamy sauce, is rich and savory, and feels more like something I’d get in a restaurant than a bowl of kid-friendly noodles. The beauty of this recipe — aside from it being totally delicious — is that it means I can cook a single dinner and everyone around my table loves it.

Miso paste and butter are a total power couple. Miso paste has a slightly salty, deeply savory flavor with a tiny hint of sweetness. It’s not overpowering or overwhelming. And when mixed well with melted butter or whisked into pasta water it basically dissolves, and at the very least you can’t see it — a huge bonus when feeding skeptical, opinionated eaters. Anytime I combine miso butter with pasta, mix it into a baked sweet potato, toss a knob with roasted broccoli or steamed green beans, or make miso butter chicken, it’s all but guaranteed my preschooler will devour dinner and likely ask for seconds. 

Ways to Riff on Creamy Miso Butter Pasta

  • Add vegetables! Any kind of vegetables are fair game here. Fresh, frozen, and even leftover veggies that need to get used up all have a place here. Frozen vegetables like peas, broccoli, and green beans can be added to the pot of pasta in the last minute of cooking, while fresh vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower florets, chopped kale or Swiss chard, and green beans should be added in the final few minutes of cooking. When using leftover sautéed, roasted, or grilled veggies, just cut into bite-size pieces and mix directly into the sauce before adding the pasta.
  • Swap in red miso paste. In the recipe I call for white or yellow miso paste because they have a relatively mellow, sweet and salty flavor. That said, if you have red miso paste in the fridge, definitely go ahead and use it. It has a richer, more robust flavor, and will still work nicely here.

Get the recipe: Creamy Miso Butter Pasta