Karen’s Burnt Butter Spaghetti with Mizithra Cheese

The other day I posted a photo on Facebook, like I do quite often to share with family and friends. I especially like to tag my family as most of them live in Ohio, Florida and out of town in Texas and this is a way to share fun foods and catch up with family events. What did I post? My family favorite, “burnt butter spaghetti.” It is one of the Greek favorite foods I make for the grandkids. My grandmother, YiaYia Sophia, would make it for us, her grandchildren, almost every time we visited her, be it for a couple of hours or for a weekend overnight visit. When our kids were young, I would make it for them and their friends and now, with seven grandkids, I am still dishing it up. It is an easy recipe and it only takes about 15 minutes to prepare. So, what makes my recipe so famous? I had a Greek friend ask me that. I began to ponder that question and asked myself what makes any recipe famous? I learned it is really hard to patent a recipe. Any variation to any recipe is considered a new recipe, thus not a copy. Now trade secrets are another thing. If one steals a trade secret, they could be in trouble. However, there are thousands of “copycat” recipes out there. There are even books titled “Copy Cat Recipes.” I tried to count how many I found online and I stopped at 50. So, why would I call my “burnt butter spaghetti” famous? Is it printed in a newspaper? Yes! The Tribune printed it in February 2010. Have I shared it with many people who rave about it? Yes. Is it posted on Facebook when the recipe is requested? Yes. So, I would say this recipe of mine is famous. Is it copyrighted? No. Is it trademarked? No. Do my family and friends identify burned butter spaghetti as one of MY recipes? Yes. So, until proven otherwise, “Please Join Our Table’ as I share my updated version of my “Famous” burned butter spaghetti. Oh yes, one more thing, it is our Greek family recipe from Crete!

P.S. I’m still looking for a printed version of Tony Raffa’s famous Southwestern Rigatoni. Let me know if you find one or if he reveals his recipe to you!

My Famous Burnt Butter Spaghetti

INGREDIENTS 1 1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 1/4 cup *mizithra cheese

12-16 ounces Greek hollow spaghetti (macaroni pastitsio No. 2 or 5)

1 tablespoon fresh Greek oregano or parsley for garnish on top of finished dish (optional)

4 cloves garlic, sliced thin (optional)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Optional toppings: chopped parsley leaves, fresh oregano or basil, roasted chicken … the options are endless.

Note: If *mizithra is not available (I am able to easily locate it at Kroger’s on Northpark or Spec’s downtown Houston), just use a blend of ricotta salata (hard ricotta) and romano, grated of course.

DIRECTIONS: Cook the spaghetti/pasta of choice according to package until al dente, drain well and set aside. While spaghetti is cooking, cut the 2 sticks of butter into 8-10 pieces and place in a 4-quart saucepan. Place the pan of butter on a burner on medium heat. While stirring constantly, bring butter to a slow boil; this will take 4-6 minutes. Once the butter begins to boil, stir constantly to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. As the butter cooks, it will foam and rise. Continue stirring, otherwise the butter foam could overflow (about 5 minutes) and catch fire. When the butter has stopped foaming and rising, continue to cook it until it becomes golden or medium amber in color (about 1 to 3 minutes). It will have a pleasant caramel color and nutty aroma. Turn off the heat, add the garlic and remove the pan from burner. At this point, you can (but it is not necessary) strain the browned butter to remove any too dark sediment pieces. Pour the browned butter over the cooked spaghetti. Divide it into four bowls. Sprinkle 1/4 of the mizithra cheese over each pasta serving. Top with fresh ground pepper to taste and a bit of the fresh oregano or parsley. Serve with extra cheese and ground black pepper.

Note: Sometimes when I am in a hurry, I omit the garlic and straining of the butter and at that point I just add the butter to the cooked spaghetti with the cheese. My husband likes it with Greek oregano lemon chicken on top.

My Version of Tony Raffa’s Southwestern Rigatoni Chicken or Shrimp, Roasted Corn, Pepper Pasta


1 lb. penne pasta, cooked al dente

2 lbs. peeled shrimp or 1-inch chunks of boneless chicken, seasoned with Old Bay Seasoning

1 cup fresh corn kernels, roasted in husk

2 oz. butter

1/2 tsp. shallot, minced

1/2 tsp. garlic, minced

1 cup red bell peppers, seeded and diced

1-2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and rough chopped

1 bunch scallions (white bulb parts only), minced

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced

1/4 cup chicken stock

1/2 cup cream or cream of shrimp soup

Pinch of ground nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

Shaved Parmesan Reggiano and fresh cilantro sprigs to garnish

DIRECTIONS: Melt butter in a large pan. Add garlic, onion, roasted corn kernels, red bell pepper, poblano pepper, jalapeño pepper and scallions. Sauté over medium high heat until tender. Add chicken stock and cream, bring to simmer. Reduce heat, add nutmeg and cilantro. Simmer until sauce thickens slightly. In a large sauté pan, heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, add the shrimp or chicken and sauté 3-5 minutes until done, set aside. Heat cooked penne pasta in lightly salted, simmering water. Drain pasta well and add to roasted corn and pepper mixture. Toss and cook until heated through. Top with shrimp. Season with salt and pepper. Divide it onto plates and top with shaved Parmesan Reggiano. Garnish with fresh cilantro sprigs.

Karen Boughton
Author: Karen BoughtonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
I grew up in a big, Greek, cooking family. I married my high school sweetheart and soon had three daughters. My husband and I worked in the family’s Greek restaurant, “Zorba’s,” for several years before moving to Baton Rouge and eventually Corpus Christi. There I taught microwave cooking classes for Amana.in studio and on television for three years before moving to Kingwood in the late '80s. I reached out to learn more about regional and international foods, spending 16 years in management in private athletic/dining/country clubs for ClubCorp, where I embraced health and cooking. In 2008 I joined the Tribune Newspapers as food editor, the same time that I became a nutrition advisor and USANA Health Sciences Associate. These two passions have given me better health and the freedom to live life my way.

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