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This garlic butter sauce for pasta is simple but spot on in flavor! Pair garlic with Parmesan and pasta water for a killer sauce.

garlic butter sauce for pasta

Looking for a simple sauce that packs a big flavor punch? Try this Garlic Butter Sauce for Pasta! It’s easy to whip up with only a handful of ingredients, but man is it irresistible. It’s made with simple pantry ingredients, great as a pasta side dish or easy dinner idea. You can also throw in add-ins based on what you have on hand: sauteed mushrooms, kale, sausage crumbles, more cheese, etc. Add a little Parmesan cheese and it’s elegantly simple (and it’s great for kids too!).

Ingredients in this garlic butter sauce pasta

All you need is a handful of ingredients: and all are pantry ingredients or last for weeks in the refrigerator. Here’s what you’ll need for this simple garlic butter sauce:

  • Garlic cloves
  • Olive oil
  • Salted butter
  • Kosher salt
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Parmesan cheese

Tips for making the garlic butter sauce!

This garlic butter sauce pasta is so simple, you barely have to think about making it. There are only a few things to note when you’re whipping up this homemade sauce:

  • Use olive oil and butter. This sauce uses a combination of butter with olive oil: this makes for a nuanced, interesting flavor. Olive oil is also the healthiest cooking fat.
  • Mince the garlic using this easy tutorial! The best way to do it is just with a chef’s knife: follow the video to find the quickest way around this knife skill.
  • Remove the garlic from the heat just before it browns! Garlic can go from golden to burned quickly. Keep your eye on it and don’t move from the stove until you’ve safely removed it from the heat: this should be just 2 to 3 minutes.
Garlic butter sauce for pasta

Cook the pasta to al dente…and don’t forget to save the water!

There are two keys to the pasta in this recipe. First of all: make sure it’s al dente. Al dente means “to the bite” in Italian: it’s pasta that’s cooked until it’s perfectly tender but with a firm center. Overcooked pasta is not only rubbery and unappetizing: it actually has less nutrients and makes you less full! Then, you’ll need to make sure to pull out some pasta water before you drain the pot.

  • Check before the package instructions indicate. Most pasta packages have timing that results in overcooked pasta. Start tasting the pasta a few minutes before the package indicates.
  • Taste often! You want to catch it right when there’s a small white fleck at the core, or just when it disappears. Pasta can go from al dente to overcooked in a matter of seconds.
  • Save the pasta water for making the sauce. It can be hard to remember, but make sure to save out about ½ cup of starchy pasta water for making the garlic butter sauce! It helps to thicken the sauce and make it glossy.
Garlic butter sauce for pasta

Makes 3 to 4 small portions

This garlic butter sauce pasta recipe is for half pound of pasta. Depending on you and your family, this makes 3 to 4 modest sized main dishservings. But if you’ve got big eaters, you’ll want to increase the amount of pasta, add some mix ins, or make sure to have a few filling side dishes to go with it. You’ll especially want to add ingredients with protein and fiber to make it part of a filling meal.

You can also serve this as a pasta side dish! It’s versatile and pairs with many types of main dishes.

Mix-ins for garlic butter sauce pasta

This garlic butter sauce pasta is ripe for customizing to your taste and what you have on hand! There are lots of vegetables or protein ideas to mix in. Here are a few ideas:

Garlic butter sauce pasta

Make it a meal: add a few side dishes!

What to add to this garlic butter sauce pasta to make it a meal? Pasta on its own isn’t a great source of protein or fiber, so you’ll want to add some dishes that complete the nutrients. Here are some ideas:

This garlic butter sauce pasta recipe is…

Vegetarian. For gluten free, use gluten free or legume pasta.

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garlic butter sauce for pasta

Garlic Butter Sauce Pasta

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 3 to 4 modest servings 1x


This garlic butter sauce for pasta is simple but spot on in flavor! Pair garlic with Parmesan and pasta water for a killer sauce.


  • 8 ounces* short pasta, like penne, rigatoni, or casarecce, plus saved pasta water (gluten free if desired)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Cook the pasta (and save the pasta water!): Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Set the timer for a few minutes less than the package instructions and then taste: the pasta should be just done, still with some firmness. The pasta should also taste salty from the salted water. Save out ½ cup pasta water using a glass measuring cup for the sauce, then quickly drain the pasta.
  2. Make the garlic butter sauce: Mince the garlic. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and butter over medium low heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook 2 to 3 minutes until fragrant and garlic just starts to turn golden. Remove from the heat before garlic browns (watch it carefully because it can brown quickly!). 
  3. Serve: Toss with the drained pasta, grated Parmesan cheese, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, and just enough pasta water until saucy (we used 2 to 3 tablespoons pasta water). Taste again and add a few more pinches of salt if desired. Enjoy warm. 


*Double this amount for a larger, more filling plate of pasta. You can also add sautéed veggies to the pasta (like mushrooms or kale), or complete your meal with a filling vegetable side dish or salad.

  • Category: Side dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian inspired
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Keywords: Garlic butter sauce for pasta

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. Thank you for this simple yet absolutely yummy recepie.
    Ive added a little Bit of chopped Rucola.
    Very delish