Pasta in Bianco (Plain/White Pasta)

That’s me, with my trusty steed at the ready.

Pasta in bianco, also called pasta bianco, is about as simple a pasta dish as one can make. When I was a boy, Mom would serve this to me whenever I was recuperating from some sort of stomach ailment. I always thought that this “cure” was something peculiar to our house and it wasn’t until many years later that I learned that many Italian households do the same. Luckily, one doesn’t need to be ill to enjoy this simple, yet surprisingly flavorful, dish. And, requiring so few ingredients, this can easily be your “go to” dinner if you want something to eat but don’t have the time nor desire to cook a “normal” meal.

Pasta in Bianco

There’s no need to treat the ingredient amounts as set in stone. You can add more butter and less extra virgin olive oil, for example, if that’s your preference. In fact, true pasta in bianco is made with only butter and that’s how Mom served it to me when I was a boy. Now that I’m older — OK, much older — I’ve replaced some of the butter with the much healthier extra virgin olive oil. Whatever combined amount of butter and oil that you use, the result should be pasta that is well-coated, but not so much that it is dripping. The same holds true for the Pecorino Romano cheese. Some people enjoy a light dusting of cheese; others prefer a blizzard. Me? I’m a blizzard kinda guy — complete with drifts.

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Pasta in Bianco Recipe

serves 2

cook time: approx.  20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb angel hair/capellini or spaghetti or linguine
  • 2 – 4 tbsp butter
  • 4 – 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Fill a large, 6 to 8 quart, pot with water and bring to a rolling boil. Add the salt, then the pasta, and stir to help prevent the pasta from sticking.
  2. Follow package directions and cook the pasta, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Use a strainer to drain the pasta completely. Do NOT rinse with cold water.
  3. Return pasta to pot, add oil and butter, and mix to coat evenly. Add cheese and mix well.
  4. Serve immediately. Have additional cheese handy for us “blizzard” folks, as well as freshly ground pepper for those so inclined — like me.

Variations

The only variations listed involve the type of cheese to be used.  That’s the only ingredient that can be changed realistically without altering the recipe and, therefore, losing its simplicity.

  • In place of the Pecorino Romano, try using Parmesan, fontinella, ricotta salata, or asiago cheeses. Each can be grated and will impart its own distinctive flavor to the dish.

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Gee, that wasn’t so bad for my first attempt. Onward and upward!

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24 thoughts on “Pasta in Bianco (Plain/White Pasta)

    • I am in total agreement, Kathryn. Although pasta in bianco is traditionally served with just butter, I eat it far too often and have had to lighten it up a bit with olive oil. It is still good and remains a favorite of mine.

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  1. Pingback: Quadretti Pasta and the Fairy Hobmother’s Gift | from the Bartolini kitchens

  2. Awww….a little ChgoJohnny!! Too cute! I think I had that same horse!! It was saved for my kids to use…and destroy! I so remember this dish John, comfort food all the way. I walked home for lunch during my elementary school days and this would be a warming dish I would get from my mother. While I never referred to it as such, I am definitely a “blizzard” lover!!

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    • Thanks, Linda. I really wasn’t a picky eater as a kid. Mom could’ve given me pasta in bianco every day for lunch or supper and I would’ve loved it! I so remember that horse! While it was around, not one desperado came near our house. Not a one! We rode with the Lone Ranger, you know, every Saturday morning.

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  3. Pingback: My Uncle’s Pasta (aka Cacio e Pepe … whatever!) | from the Bartolini kitchens

  4. I thought I would browse, but my eyes are closing. Your second post if very interesting but i love this simple recipe and I still have that triangle of Pecorino Romano, still wrapped and untouched. I prefer a light dusting of cheese, my son loves a mega blizzard, I always have to say “enough” and stash away the cheese. Is that really you? That’s a cute photo. Time to head back to Ontario. Best Wishes, John.

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    • Hope yours was a pleasant trip back home to Ontario, Liz. There aren’t many pasta dishes as uncomplicated as this one: pasta, butter, and cheese. To this day, it remains a favorite. Yes, that’s me with my trusty steed waiting at bedside. 🙂

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    • I still make pasta in bianco when I’ve an upset stomach, Tanya, and you can be sure that I’ve always got brodo in my freezer reserved for medicinal purposes. It worked back then and it will work now. 🙂

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    • This was one of the first dishes that I learned to prepare for myself and it has remained a favorite ever since. Why order lukewarm food to be delivered to your door when you can enjoy a freshly made dish of Pasta in Bianco in half the time? As for the blizzards, I think it safe to say that I’ve sent more than a couple of Parma’s kids to college by now. 🙂

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  5. What an enjoyable post ! It reminds me of my son who ONLY enjoyed pasta in bianco when he was little (whereas my daughter preferred pasta with a tomato sauce). Re the eating of food “in bianco”, i.e. “white” food, i.e. food that contains no tomatoes … it actually dates back to the first medical school in Europe (not the first university), which was that of Salerno. And rice, which was very expensive and a bit of a rarity, was given as a healing food … probably served with pretty much nothing else. Italians will often eat boiled white rice with maybe a little olive oil after suffering from an upset stomach or diarrhoea. Apparently the reason the people from Campania and Naples referred negatively to rice as “sciacqua panza” (that is “something to cleanse/wash out the stomach) has probably something to do with this ancient custom. So … back to pasta … pasta in bianco is also enjoyed EVEN IF one is perfectly healthy! I make it with parmiggiano – with pecorino it must be a real treat ! 🙂 I was surprised to find out that it is also called “pasta all’inglese”. Goodness knows why but I make a conjecture about it in this post of mine from a few years ago: https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/english-pasta-spaghetti-burro-e-parmigiano/

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  6. As in your family, when I was very young, my mother used to to serve me pasta bianco almost everyday, but for lunch. I still love to prepare it almost everyday, but primarily with the same pasta Mama used: stelline pasta. I also add some whole wheat torchiette pasta to give the mixture some tooth. After cooking the pastas in heavily salted water, I drain them and retain the cooking liquid. I then place the drained pasta back into the pan and add lots of butter. I then turn the heat on the burner to low and and slowly add back the water a little at a time, stirring constantly. When I have achieved a creamy consistency (similar to a well prepared risotto and easy to achieve because of the small stelline), I then put my pasta in a bowl, and add a blizzard of parmigiano, though I find that a smaller amount of cheese is necessary when the pasta is prepared this way. Questo e il cibo di cielo!

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    • I am so sorry. I just came upon your comment in the SPAM folder. Yours, anda few others, would have been deleted en masse had I not thought to look into the folder. Whew!

      Your dish does indeed sound like heavenly food! I really must try it, especially now that the bottom is falling out of our temperatures again. As for the pasta in bianco, to this day, few dishes can rival the comfort I feel when there’s a dish of this “plain” pasta before me. 🙂

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