Pasta with Garlic, Butter & Cheese

I developed this recipe when I was student teaching and had two kids to feed with no extra time to spare, One of their favorite dinners was grilled swordfish with capers served with pasta with garlic sauteed in olive oil. Well, no time for that! This was my streamlined version of that classic Italian pasta dish. You can use any type of short pasta shape you like. My kids liked “gemelli” but feel free to substitute fusilli, farfalle, penne, or your favorite.

I can’t tell you how often you’ll make this pasta because it also lends itself to another meal if you add any leftover protein. I like to serve it with London Broil.

 Don’t try adding the grated cheese to the bottom of the bowl before adding the hot pasta. I can tell you that it won’t work. You will end up with a molten ball of cheese that won’t mix in!


  • 1/2 pound gemelli, or other short-shaped pasta (1/2 box)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons plus 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse pepper
  • grated romano cheese, to taste

1.Bring 3 1/2 quarts water with 2 tablespoons salt to a boil in a large pot over high heat.

2.Add the pasta and stir. Reduce the heat so that the water is still boiling but won’t boil over and make a mess of your stove. Cook according to the package instructions, stirring a few times to make sure it isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pot.

3.Meanwhile, slice the butter into a few chunks and place in a mixing bowl. Squeeze the garlic through a press (see pressing garlic) into the bowl. Add the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and the pepper to the bowl.


4.Taste the pasta about a minute before it’s due to finish cooking. If it tastes just done, which the Italians call “al dente” meaning “to the tooth,” drain it into a sieve. It will still keep cooking so you want to make sure you don’t overcook it or it will be mushy. Don’t shake it dry! You want the extra moisture.

5.Immediately pour the drained pasta into the bowl with the butter and garlic. It’s good if there’s still a bit of water clinging to the pasta because that will thicken your sauce. Don’t do anything for about 30 seconds. The heat from the pasta will melt the butter AND cook the garlic. Genius, right?

6.Mix the pasta and taste to see if it needs more salt and/or pepper.

7.Serve with grated cheese.

Grocery Bag: Pasta with Garlic, Butter & Cheese