Brown butter makes everything taste better, especially this pasta with spinach and mushrooms. It’s a quick and easy dinner!
Photography Credit: Sally Vargas
When it comes to this pasta dish with mushrooms, spinach, and brown butter, you couldn’t ask for an easier or quicker weeknight meal.
Just sauté a hefty amount of mushrooms, add cooked pasta and spinach, and stir until the spinach wilts. Just like that, dinner is ready!
THE SECRET IS IN THE SAUCE
With so few ingredients you might think this dish would be too plain. But that’s where the magic of brown butter comes in. Brown butter transforms this very basic pasta into something special.
You might have seen it used in recipes for baked goods, like Elise’s Brown Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies, but its nutty flavor is also great with pasta. If you’ve never made it before, this pasta is a great place to start experimenting.
HOW TO MAKE BROWN BUTTER
Here’s your science lesson for the day: Butter is comprised of clear butterfat, water, and milk proteins. When you brown butter, you’re allowing the water to evaporate and then browning the solids.
Use with a heavy-bottomed pan—any kind will work, but if this is your first time, use a stainless steel or aluminum pan so that monitor the browning of the milk solids (which is harder to do in cast iron or non-stick pans).
Add the butter to the pan and let it melt. Once the water evaporates (it will bubble and spatter), the milk solids quickly turn golden. Keep the heat low and keep stirring. Take your time at this point, and then quickly take the pan off the heat when you notice the particles at the bottom of the pan start to brown and smell a nutty aroma. That’s it!
With such a small amount of butter in this recipe, it may take only a few seconds to brown once the butter is melted, so watch carefully.
Once you try it, you will want to use brown butter again and again—and there’s honestly nothing wrong with that. Brown butter helps improve the taste of both sweet and savory dishes.
MORE RECIPES WITH BROWN BUTTER
Watch This Video on How To Brown Butter!
Pasta with Spinach, Mushrooms, and Brown Butter Recipe
Any kind of mushrooms can be used in this recipe, like white mushrooms, cremini, Portobello or shitake. Use a mix, or just use a single variety.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 pounds mushrooms, sliced (See Recipe Note)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 pound small shaped pasta, such as orecchiette, bowties, campanelle, or shells
- 5 ounces (4 to 5 large handfuls) baby spinach leaves
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (for garnish)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (for garnish)
1 Cook the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente (check the package for specific times for your chosen pasta).
Scoop out 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta in a colander. Set aside.
2 Meanwhile, make the brown butter: In a small stainless steel or other light-colored skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Cook, stirring constantly, until the butter solids on the bottom turn light brown and the butter smells nutty. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
For a full tutorial on making brown butter, see this post.
3 Cook the mushrooms: In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the mushrooms, and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes, or until the mushrooms release their juices and turn golden brown. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4 Finish the pasta: Add the drained pasta to the skillet with the mushrooms and toss over medium-high heat. Stir in half the spinach and 1/4 cup of the pasta water into the pasta and cook until the spinach begins to wilt. Add the remaining spinach, and stir until all the spinach wilts. If the pasta seems dry, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons of the remaining pasta cooking water.
Stir in the browned butter, lemon juice and lemon zest and toss. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if you like.
5 Serve the pasta: Spoon the pasta into shallow bowls and sprinkle the parsley and Parmesan on top. Grind a little fresh black pepper over each bowl.
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