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Our version of The Old Spaghetti Factory’s Mizithra Pasta is AMAZING. It is a rich and buttery dish that your whole family will love.
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I loved going to The Old Spaghetti Factory as a kid. I loved sitting in the streetcar and getting spumoni ice cream with every meal. The absolute best part of the experience, though, was the Mizithra Pasta. It was buttery and cheesy and I licked the plate clean every time. I love when we can nail down a favorite dish from one of our favorite places. This recipe is very simple – only a couple of ingredients – but it is sure to please any dinner crowd.
Ingredients in Mizithra Pasta
This rich, delicious copycat recipe comes together with only FOUR ingredients. It’s one of the easiest pasta dishes you’ll ever make!
- 16 ounces Spaghetti noodles – one pound or 16 ounces of spaghetti. You can use angel hair, linguine, or fettuccini noodles, whatever you have on hand.
- Butter – two sticks, or one cup. You can use unsalted butter or regular butter but don’t substitute for margarine or anything else. You need the butter in this recipe! Everything in moderation, right?
- Mizithra cheese – about six ounces, finely grated. You can find mizithra cheese at Trader Joe’s, Harmon’s, Sprouts, and other grocery stores.
- Fresh basil – this is optional, but delicious and so pretty as a garnish. You can also garnish with fresh parsley too.
What is Mizithra Cheese?
Mizithra (sometimes spelled Myzithra) cheese is a Greek whey cheese made from goat’s and sheep’s milk. When it is first made, it resembles ricotta cheese, with a more mild taste, but then it can be salt-dried into a harder cheese. This harder type of Mizithra cheese is considered Greek cuisine’s parmesan or Romano cheese and is most commonly used to grate over fresh pasta. The salt drying process gives it a salty, nutty flavor that adds so much to this dish! If you can’t find mizithra cheese, feta has a similar flavor and texture and is a good substitute. Mascarpone and cotija cheese are other good options.
Where to Find Mizithra Cheese
Finding Mizithra cheese can be a little tricky. I usually have to look in the deli section of the grocery store in their “fancy” cheese display. It can be spelled Mizithra or Myzithra. Most stores sell it by the pound and offer different sized blocks that you can choose from. It is a little pricier of a cheese, but I promise it is so worth it!!
What is Brown Butter?
You might be thinking “What is brown butter? I’ve never seen that at the store,” and you’re right! Brown butter is made by cooking regular butter until it turns a lovely brown color. Cooking the butter gives it this incredibly deep flavor that goes well with savory dishes, like this Mizithra Pasta, but also sweet dishes like our Brown Butter Pecan Pie!
How to Make Brown Butter
The most important thing to remember when making brown butter is to boil it over medium heat. You don’t want it to burn!! Start with a light colored pan, so you can see the color of the butter easier at the bottom of the pan. Once the butter melts and gets hot, it will start to foam. I like to pick up the pan and swirl it around a little to help me see the color through the foam. Once the butter turns a deep golden brown, and you start to smell a little bit of a nutty smell – it is ready! Transfer it to a heat-safe small bowl and let the milk particles sink to the bottom while it cools. Then transfer it to a different bowl, trying to leave most of the solid particles behind. You can also strain it through a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer.
Frequently Asked Questions about Mizithra Pasta
Unlike parmesan cheese, fresh mizithra cheese does not have a rind, but develops one as it ages. The flavors are very similar, with a nutty, salty bite that pairs perfectly with pasta.
It actually doesn’t melt fully down, which is why it’s perfect in this pasta dish. You’ll get an extra burst of flavor when you get an extra little bit with your pasta.
Tightly wrap and store cheese in the refrigerator and it should stay fresh for up to six months. You can also freeze in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to one year.
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How to Make Mizithra Pasta
The Old Spaghetti Factory’s Mizithra Pasta
- 16 ounces spaghetti noodles
- 1 cup butter (no substitutes)
- 6 ounces Mizithra cheese finely grated
- fresh basil as an optional garnish
- Cook pasta in a large pot of salted, boiling water until al dente. Drain.
- While pasta is cooking, start slowly melting butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until golden brown. The butter will foam up and rise, but just keep stirring until it turns brown.
- Remove pan from heat and pour melted butter into a tempered glass bowl or measuring bowl. Allow the sediment to settle at the bottom of the bowl for a few minutes. Do not stir up the sediments in the pan, you want the clear butter separated from the sediment at the bottom. Pour the browned butter into a separate bowl, again, keeping the butter separated from the sediment.
- Toss the pasta with the butter when it is ready.
- Reserve ½ cup of Mizithra cheese. Stir the remaining cheese into the butter coated pasta.
- Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Garnish with sliced fresh basil (optional).
- Serve immediately.
- The most important thing to remember when making brown butter is to boil it over medium heat. You don’t want it to burn!!
- Start with a light colored pan, so you can see the color of the butter easier at the bottom of the pan.
- Once the butter melts and gets hot, it will start to foam. I like to pick up the pan and swirl it around a little to help me see the color through the foam. Once the butter turns a deep golden brown, and you start to smell a little bit of a nutty smell – it is ready!
- Transfer it to a heat-safe small bowl and let the milk particles sink to the bottom while it cools. Then transfer it to a different bowl, trying to leave most of the solid particles behind. You can also strain it through a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer.
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This dish was very dry. What can I do next time to prevent that? Also the cheese didn’t melt is it not suppose to?
Mizithra cheese doesn’t melt like other cheeses. If the dish was dry, maybe the butter to pasta ratio was off!
A couple of things:
1) If you can’t find Mizithra cheese, an acceptable substitute is a fine grated combination of Romano cheese and Kasseri cheese.
2) I have never had basil sprinkled on my Browned Butter and Mizithra Cheese Spagetti when I have eaten at Old Spagetti Factory and we eat there frequently and order this every time. I will sprinkle on Black Pepper, but that would be it.
3) I am thrilled they now serve Steamed Broccoli sprinkled liberally with Mizithra Cheese and will order that as an a side dish to the Spagetti.
Sprouts Farmers Market (stores mostly in the western US, but now starting to appear in other regions of the country) carries the Old Spaghetti Factory branded mizithra cheese, shredded in a tub. The one closest to me in Greenville, SC, didn’t have it on the online list of products carried in that store, but it did indeed have it in the dairy case when I visited recently (April). So if you have a Sprouts near you, try there. Also, The Fresh Market chain sells solid disk of mizithra cheese (find it in the gourmet cheese case), if that supermarket chain is near you. You’ll have to shred or grate it yourself, but it may keep longer than the pre-shredded version sold at Sprouts.
Thank you for sharing this info!
This is so great to find because I love the Old Spaghetti Factory’s “The Homer” which is this dish. Just browned buttered and mizithra cheese – if you haven’t tried it, it’s really good. I’ve only been able to find mizithra cheese twice in my community – the one store that sold it closed, but I just discovered it this afternoon in the store that replaced it, so snatched it up a big ball. As I understand this cheese is often not available in early spring as the goat’s milk goes to newborn kids. It’s kind of expensive but so worth and lasts for about a year. Never had it with fresh basil, but I have a basil plant I can pinch some leaves off. Will be making this tomorrow.
You are going to love this recipe! Good to know why Mizithra cheese can be hard to find. Thank you for your comment.
I work at OSF…an easy step to avoid worrying about the butter getting mixed up is to run it SLOWLY thru a coffee filter while still hot, it catches all of the browned proteins, and leaves a beautiful clarified browned butter
Thanks for the tip. It’s a bit cumbersome separating the butter and I end up wasting some.
Sounds easy and doable for lent. Hope it’s as good as it sounds.
Sounds delicious. I think I never tasted Mizithra cheese. I must look in my market for it. I will give this try for sure.
WOW I love this at Olive Garden. So so yummy. And can’t believe what a delicious difference the browned butter makes. Thanks for this recipe!
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