Growing up, my mom used to spend all day making her famous spaghetti sauce. It. Is. Amazing. However, even after that delicious Italian nectar simmered away all day on the stove, my sister would always insist that she have her pasta plain, with a little butter and parmesan. It was like a simple Italian version of mac & cheese. Delicious, but a little sacrilegious… To this day, tomatoes are not her favorite, hahaha.
Fast forward about 20 years later and my husband and I have just moved across the country to Vancouver, WA. The movers haven’t arrived with our stuff (and wouldn’t for almost 3 weeks… GRRRR), and we have no refrigerator. Needless to say, we munched on what we could fit in a tiny cooler and ate out. A lot. The Spaghetti Factory was right down the street and became one of our faves. Huge portions we could share and prices weren’t too shabby. No wonder I gained so much weight… We almost always ordered their specialty of spaghetti with brown butter and myzithra cheese. We’d had the dish before and I almost forgot how good it is! Something about the simplicity of the pasta, plus a touch of nutty, caramelized brown butter and the tangy/salty myzithra cheese. Yum! Maybe my sister was actually on to something…
After getting over my ridiculous fear of making brown butter, I realized how easy this dish is to recreate. I added some broccoli because, well, Zak likes broccoli and broccoli good for you. Especially when sprinkled with cheese, right? This dish easily became one of our favorite weeknight comfort food dinners. Or lunches. Or afternoon snacks… Plus, it’s quick to make – if you make the brown butter head of time, this dish literally takes as long as it does to boil and drain the pasta. Even with the added step of browning the butter first (check out the instructions here), this dish is still a breeze.
Heavily salt a pot of water big enough for the amount of pasta you are cooking. You want plenty of water circulating around in there.
Measure out the amount of pasta you plan to make – I go with about 2 oz. per person for a small meal, especially if I’m adding veg in there. Feel free to use more if you’re hungrier, less if it will just be a side. I happen to have a handy dandy contraption that measures out just enough for two :) And, yes, I like to label… I just can’t stop myself! By the way, I used whole wheat spaghetti here, but any type of pasta is great, including gluten-free.
Add the pasta when the water is at full boil.
While the pasta boils, get out your Myzithra cheese. You can find it at most grocery stores nowadays, and it usually comes in a half or quarter-round like this.
Grate about an ounce of cheese for for each 2 oz. of pasta. Feel free to use more or less.
Next, cut yourself up some broccoli. Or asparagus. Or artichoke hearts. Or sun-dried tomatoes. Or nothing, hahaha. However much you want. I went with one small head of broccoli for the two of us.
When the pasta is almost done cooking, throw in your broccoli to get it warmed and just slightly “steamed.” Sun-dried tomatoes can also get added here to help plump them, but this step is mainly if you are using fresh veggies that you need to warm through. The water may slow or stop boiling. That’s ok.
Crank the heat a bit to get it back to a boil, but be careful not to overcook your pasta.
When the pasta is al dente (still just a bit undercooked), drain the pasta/veg mix and put the pot back on the hot burner, but turn the burner off.
Grab your brown butter. If you’ve just made it, drizzle in however much you want to use. I usually go with about a tablespoon per 2 oz. pasta serving. Mine was ready-made in the fridge, so I just scraped out a couple tablespoons.
Let the butter melt in the pot over the still-warm burner. If you have a gas stove, you may want to turn it back on low for a minute to help with the melting.
Add the pasta/veg mix back into the pot. Here is where you would throw in any artichoke hearts, capers, etc. that didn’t need cooking.
Toss in about half of your cheese and stir around. Myzithra cheese doesn’t melt, so don’t worry that your pasta is cold or anything when it doesn’t melt after adding.
Dish it out and sprinkle on the remaining cheese between the bowls. You can always use less if you want, but I wouldn’t. Really. You won’t regret this… So delicious!
Zak about had a heart attack waiting for me to be done taking pictures, hahaha…