Six ingredients and 25 minutes are all you need to create a quick pasta dish that’s FULL of flavor. And these garlic butter noodles aren’t just any buttered noodles…so what sets them apart? Browned butter.

With just enough garlic, a bit of Parmesan, and some fresh parsley and spinach to finish, these noodles are a BIG step up from the classic kids menu offering.

Overhead image of whole wheat pasta with spinach and Parmesan served in white bowls with wine and parmesan off to the side

How to make garlic butter noodles

This recipe is a great example of how a few all-star ingredients can come together to create a dish that’s FULL of flavor in very little time.

  1. Get the pasta cooking—the key is to slightly under-cook the pasta (it’lll continue to cook in the pan with the browned butter). 
  2. Meanwhile, start browning the butter in a large sauté pan.
  3. Add the garlic and pepper to the browned butter (it will bubble and foam up a bit.) 
  4. Drain the pasta (reserving 1½ cups cooking water) and transfer to pan with butter. 
  5. Add the parmesan and some of the reserved cooking liquid.
  6. Add spinach, in batches, and toss to combine. 
  7. Toss in parsley, season with salt, and add additional cooking water as needed.

What is browned butter?

Browned butter is melted butter that has been cooked over moderate heat to add a deep nutty and toasty flavor. Where does the flavor come from? The flavor comes from toasting the milk solids that are in the butter. Browned butter can be used in a variety of ways including sauces, dips, baked goods and more.

side angle of a two white plates filled with noodles and spinach with wine in the background

How do you make browned butter?

  1. You can use salted or unsalted butter, so whatever you have on hand will work! One thing to keep in mind is to use room temperature butter, or at least butter that isn’t too cold. If frozen butter is used, there’s a risk of uneven browning (and it may splatter).
  2. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Continuously swirl pan, or stir butter with a wooden spoon or spatula, to evenly melt and cook the butter. The butter will start to foam, but will eventually subside.
  3. Continue cooking until small brown flecks start to form at the bottom of the pan and the butter starts to smell richly toasted and nutty, 5–8 minutes total.
  4. Watch it closely! The butter can go from lightly browned to burnt in a matter of seconds. Once you see the milk solids start to change in color, keep a close eye. When the color is a deep golden brown, immediately remove from heat and pour into a glass bowl.
grid of images showing the progression of browning butter

Make it a full meal, serve garlic butter noodles with:

close up image of whole wheat pasta with spinach and Parmesan served in a white bowl with wine and parmesan off to the side

Mix it up! Try these variations/add-ins

  • Add sautéed or roasted veggies (bell peppers, green peas, snap peas, and/or broccoli)
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Lemon zest
  • Fresh herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary)
side angle of a two white plates filled with noodles and spinach with wine in the background

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Overhead image of whole wheat pasta with spinach and Parmesan served in white bowls with wine and parmesan off to the side

Make sure to tag me @ZESTFULKITCHEN ON INSTAGRAM or comment below if you make these Browned Butter Garlic Noodles!

To pin this recipe and save it for later, you can click the button on any of the photos, or the red button on the side bar or below the recipe. Happy cooking!

Browned Butter Garlic Noodles

5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Yield 10 cups
Category Main Dish
Cuisine American
Author Lauren


An easy, and flavorful, pasta side dish that comes together quickly! Make it a meal by adding grilled chicken, roasted salmon or grilled veggies.


  • kosher salt
  • 1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 4 cups spinach
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley


  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  • Season boiling water with 2 tablespoons salt, add pasta and cook 2 minutes less than package directions recommend.
  • Meanwhile, cook butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat, gently swirling, until butter is golden brown and nutty, 3–5 minutes. Off heat, stir in garlic and pepper and set aside.
  • Drain pasta, reserving 1½ cups cooking liquid. Add pasta, cheese, and ¼ cup reserved cooking liquid to pan with butter set over medium-low heat. Toss pasta to combine until cheese is melted, adding reserved water by ¼ until you reach desired consistency.
  • Add a quarter of the spinach and toss to combine, continue adding spinach in batches until combined; add parsley and toss to combine. Season with salt to taste and finish with additional cooking liquid as needed.
  • Serve with grated Parmesan.


Store pasta in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stove top. Add additional butter or olive oil to loosen the sauce as needed.


Serving: 1cupCalories: 374kcalCarbohydrates: 64gProtein: 16gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 20mgSodium: 285mgFiber: 10g
Like this? Leave a comment below!I love hearing from you and I want to hear how it went with this recipe! Leave a comment and rating below, then share on social media @zestfulkitchen and #zestfulkitchen!
Overhead image of whole wheat pasta with spinach and Parmesan served in white bowls with wine and parmesan off to the side

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine,,, and more.

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  1. 5 stars
    we LOVED this. I used to make buttered noodles for my kids when they were younger. One of my kids asked for it the other day, and I thought I should find a more modern option. This was it! The browned butter is SO good.