Creamy Miso Butter Pasta

published Nov 7, 2023
Dinner Therapist
Creamy Miso Butter Pasta Recipe

A mix of butter, miso paste, pasta water, and Parm makes this pasta super flavorful.

Serves4 to 6

Prep5 minutes

Cook25 minutes

Jump to Recipe
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Tongs swirling around creamy miso butter pasta in skillet.
Credit: Kelli Foster

Dinner Therapist is my column dedicated to solving your dilemmas around the most important — but, let’s be honest, sometimes most dreaded — meal of the day. Prepping dinner night after night can be so hard. Here, I deliver practical and hopefully fun advice to make cooking less complicated and more enjoyable. Follow along for all the recipes. Got your own dinner struggles? We want to hear from you! Fill out this super-quick form for your chance to be featured in an upcoming column.

My version of creamy miso butter pasta first happened on the fly one evening when I was totally exhausted and scrambling to throw together a single meal that would comfort my sick preschooler and feel totally satisfying — although preferably, restaurant-level delicious — to me. While I didn’t want to eat “kid food” yet again, I wanted something my kid would actually eat. What started off as buttered noodles, quickly morphed into a super-creamy, velvety sauce made with salty-sweet white miso paste, Parmesan, and starchy pasta water. Simple, quick, and easily adaptable, this is essentially grown-up buttered noodles. 

After making it dozens of times just this year, I’ve learned that the key to totally nailing it every single time is getting the ratio of butter to miso paste to pasta water just right. The dish more than hits the mark for everyone around the table.

While the recipe doesn’t include vegetables, please know that basically all vegetables are fair game 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. If you already have some sautéed, roasted, or grilled vegetables, just cut into bite-size pieces and mix directly into the sauce before adding the pasta.

Ingredients in Miso Butter Pasta

  • Long dried pasta. My personal favorites for this recipe are mafaldine and bucatini, although any long pasta works well here.
  • Unsalted butter. You’ll need a full stick. A couple of tablespoons get melted to make the toasted panko topping, then you’ll melt the remainder to make the sauce. 
  • Miso paste. White or yellow miso paste are the best choices for this recipe. They have a relatively mellow, sweet and salty flavor.
  • Parmesan cheese. This salty, nutty cheese partners well with butter and miso paste. Whisk it into the sauce for a slightly thicker consistency, just before adding the pasta.
  • Pasta water. You won’t see this one listed in the ingredient list, but it’s worth calling out because this starchy water is an integral part of the recipe. You’ll use upwards of a cup and a half to create the creamy sauce.
Credit: Kelli Foster

If You’re Making Miso Butter Pasta, a Few Tips

  • Cook the pasta less than the package instructions. Because the pasta gets finished in the sauce, you’ll want to keep that great al dente texture. Plan to cook for one minute less than the instructions call for al dente. 
  • Reserve some pasta water. This is the key ingredient for making a lush, glossy sauce. You’ll use between 1 and 1 1/2 cups, but it never hurts to have a little more just in case.
  • Add miso to the pasta water. Rather than whisk the miso paste directly into the butter in the pan (it’s tough to get all those little lumps out), first combine it with one cup of the pasta water and whisk together. It easily softens and dissolves into the water and the sauce stays lump-free.
  • Add more water as needed. If at any point the sauce feels too thick, add more pasta water to the skillet a few tablespoons at a time. I think an additional 1/2 cup makes for an ample amount of sauce with a nice consistency. 
  • The panko topping is optional. A sprinkle of toasted panko breadcrumbs over the pasta adds a really nice contrast. But it might not be for all eaters, and that’s OK. The dish will still be totally delicious, even if you skip it.
Credit: Kelli Foster

Creamy Miso Butter Pasta Recipe

A mix of butter, miso paste, pasta water, and Parm makes this pasta super flavorful.

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 25 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons

    (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided

  • 1/2 cup

    panko breadcrumbs

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more for the pasta water

  • 1/8 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes (optional)

  • 1 ounce

    Parmesan cheese (1/2 cup firmly packed freshly grated or 1/3 cup store-bought grated)

  • 1

    clove garlic

  • 1 pound

    long dried pasta, preferably mafaldine, bucatini, or linguine

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 cup

    white or yellow miso paste

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the unsalted butter in a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes if using. Cook, stirring regularly, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and wipe the skillet clean with paper towels.

  2. Finely grate 1 ounce Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 packed cup) or measure out 1/3 cup store-bought grated, plus more for serving, if desired. Finely grate 1 garlic clove.

  3. Add 1 pound long dried pasta to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute less than the package instructions for al dente. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the pasta water. Drain the pasta.

  4. Place 1/4 cup white or yellow miso paste and 1 cup of the pasta water in a glass measuring cup or small bowl. Whisk until smooth.

  5. Melt the remaining 6 tablespoons unsalted butter in the reserved skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 20 to 30 seconds. Add the miso mixture and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Whisk until mostly smooth. Bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring regularly, until slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the Parmesan cheese and whisk to combine. Add the pasta and toss to coat. If the sauce is too thick, thin it out with more pasta water a tablespoon at a time.

  6. Serve topped with the breadcrumbs. Taste and season with more kosher salt and black pepper as needed.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Reheat over low heat on the stovetop and thin the sauce out with a few spoonfuls of water.