Ready in just 15 minutes, this creamy Garlic Butter Pasta is an easy meal the whole family will love. Serve with a big salad and garlic bread, or add your favorite protein to feed a crowd. This is the definition of simple from-scratch perfection!

Small wooden bowl with a serving of creamy garlic butter pasta garnished with fresh parsley.

From-Scratch Garlic Butter Pasta

Do you need quick, simple, super easy meals — that are still real food and comforting? If so, celebrate, because this creamy, garlicky pasta checks all the right boxes. It’s delicious, crowd-pleasing, and ready in 15 minutes flat.

This is so simple that I sometimes even make it for lunch, which is really saying something, because most of the time lunch in our house consists of leftovers, sandwiches, or plates of cheese and crackers. 🙂

Why you’ll love it

  • Quick and easy. Did I mention it’s done in 15 minutes?
  • Creamy and luscious. You’ll be amazed by how effortlessly such simple ingredients come together into a sauce with great taste.
  • Versatile. Serve as-is for a simple bowl of comfort food, or add a protein, salad, or garlic bread for a fuller meal. (More ideas below!)
  • Simple ingredient list. In fact, you probably have most of the ingredients in your kitchen right now.

Ingredients & Common Substitutions

Spaghetti, grated Parmesan cheese, fresh parsley, chicken broth, cream, butter, garlic, and red pepper flakes arranged in prep bowls on a small tray.

Here are a few notes and shopping tips about the ingredients you’ll need to make this, as well as possible substitutions. 

  • Pasta: Spaghetti is always cozy, or use linguine, angel hair, rotini, penne, or shells. You could even try this with egg noodles.
  • Fresh garlic: With so few ingredients, freshness matters, so mince your own if you can, or use jarred as a fall-back. Garlic powder won’t have the same oomph.
  • Butter: I prefer unsalted butter and adding salt separately to taste, but you can use salted butter just as well and potentially add less salt later to taste.
  • Broth: A little chicken broth or vegetable broth is important to giving the sauce the right texture. Most of us don’t enjoy eating pure seasoned cream.
  • Cream: A key component of, well, really creamy garlic pasta. Many similar recipes leave out the cream; the end result is tasty, but you’ll just never get as rich a sauce without it. See below for common questions.
  • Parmesan: Fresh-grated if possible, but I have used a high-quality pre-grated Parmesan in a pinch.
  • Seasonings: Red pepper flakes, dried or fresh parsley, kosher salt, and black pepper to taste.

A squeeze of lemon juice is an optional addition. I like adding it to creamy pasta recipes for a little freshness!

Is half and half a good substitute for heavy cream?

Use heavy whipping cream or light cream if you have it, but if you don’t, use half and half or even whole milk in a pinch. The sauce will have a thinner consistency, but I’ve tested the recipe with all three and it still works.

How To Make Garlic Butter Sauce for Pasta

Ready to make the fastest meal ever? Let’s go!

  1. Cook pasta in well-salted boiling water, just to al dente.
  2. Melt butter in a separate skillet, then add garlic and other seasonings.
  3. Stir in broth and cream over medium heat until smooth.
  4. Add drained, warm pasta to the sauce. Toss and enjoy!
Large skillet filled with creamy garlic butter pasta, with tongs ready to toss the pasta and serve.

If you prefer a looser sauce, reserve a small amount of the pasta water — 1/3 to 1/2 cup should do the trick — to mix into the sauce near the end. Using pasta water to thin out a sauce works well because the starch released into the water by the pasta allows the sauce to thin out more slowly and naturally than tap water would.

A sprinkling of parsley — fresh or dried — is a really nice touch if you have it, for a pop of color and flavor.

Serving Suggestions

Let me be clear: this is perfectly acceptable to slurp up straight from bowls (or the pan!) for a simple, soul-warming meal or side dish.

That said, if you want to round things out or stretch the meal further, pair this garlic butter pasta with some grilled or baked Italian dressing chicken, garlic butter shrimp, Italian sausage, or another protein.

An Italian salad, spinach salad, or a simple mix of arugula and pine nuts complements these flavors beautifully. And a loaf of crusty garlic bread never hurts!

Two small wooden bowls with creamy garlic butter pasta ready to eat.

Storage & Reheating

Smile if you have leftovers, because this garlic butter pasta keeps pretty well for future meals. The sauce usually maintains its consistency as long as it’s not warmed for too long or over excessively high heat. The pasta may absorb some extra sauce, but that is not really a bad thing!

  • Storage: Leftovers keep very well for 3-4 days. Store in any airtight container in the fridge. (These are our favorite meal prep boxes!)
  • Reheating: Warm in the microwave or over medium-low heat in a small saucepan. Add a splash of broth or water to help loosen the sauce and minimize sticking, only if needed.

More Easy Pasta Recipes

If you love simple and quick pasta recipes, you’ll also enjoy pasta marinara, creamy spaghetti with mushrooms and garlicky breadcrumbs, weeknight bolognese, gnocchi alla vodka, and salmon pesto pasta. Lemon chicken pasta always hits the spot, and lemon broccoli pasta is another one-pot wonder you’ll love to have in your back pocket!

If you try this Garlic Butter Pasta, don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. I love hearing how recipes turn out in your kitchen, and it helps other readers, too.

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4.84 from 6 votes

Garlic Butter Pasta

Ready in just 15 minutes, this is an easy yet flavorful real-food meal the whole family will love.


  • 8 ounces pasta
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2-3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup broth chicken or vegetable
  • 1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
  • 1/3 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice optional
  • kosher salt & fresh-ground black pepper
  • sprinkling of parsley dried or fresh


  • Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, then add a generous pinch of kosher salt and the pasta. Cook just to al dente, according to package directions, then drain and set aside.
  • While the pasta cooks, melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in garlic and red pepper, followed by broth. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  • Stir in the cream or half-and-half. Lower heat to medium. Cook 1-2 minutes, until thickened slightly. Add Parmesan plus lemon and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well.
  • Add drained pasta to sauce, toss to coat, and sprinkle with parsley. Serve right away.


  • If you prefer a looser sauce, reserve a small amount of the pasta water — 1/3 to 1/2 cup should do the trick — to mix into the sauce near the end. Using pasta water to thin out a sauce works well because the starch released into the water by the pasta allows the sauce to thin out more slowly and naturally than tap water would.

Nutrition Estimate

Calories: 298 kcal, Carbohydrates: 43 g, Protein: 11 g, Fat: 9 g, Saturated Fat: 5 g, Cholesterol: 21 mg, Sodium: 194 mg, Potassium: 139 mg, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 2 g, Vitamin A: 277 IU, Vitamin C: 1 mg, Calcium: 113 mg, Iron: 1 mg
Did you make this recipe?Leave a review below, then snap a quick picture and tag @nourishandfete on Instagram so I can see it!

This post was originally published on November 12, 2020; it has been updated with more comprehensive information on how to make it and answers to some frequently asked questions.