Every kitchen has at least one or two (or 10) specialty ingredients taking up space in the fridge or pantry. But if you broaden your scope, they can add layers to your cooking in new and unexpected ways.

Why not stir a tablespoon of green curry into your next risotto? Sprinkle earthy turmeric into mashed potatoes? Perk up a pork chop with five-spice seasoning? Add molasses to caramelized onions? Play with what you’ve got, and infinite options open up.

Sleek, sophisticated and nearly effortless, this creamy miso pasta is the happy result of just that kind of experimentation, a poorly stocked fridge and zero motivation to cook or clean. Chips and salsa would have sufficed, but there was only pasta (because there is almost always pasta). And butter, and some wedge of hard cheese, and a huge number of condiments that rarely see the light of day.

A cacio e pepe would have fit the bill, but what about something more complex? Capers might have added acidity, or turmeric some earthiness. Red curry paste was a wild card. After a thorough scan of the fridge and pantry, an option emerged: Pasta would serve as the bulk, butter the conduit and miso the spark, adding a complexity beyond Parmesan’s blunt salinity.

With the spaghetti boiling away in a pot of water, the work was nearly done. The active portion of this recipe takes minutes: Using a pair of tongs, vigorously toss the cooked pasta with melted butter, miso, shredded Parmesan and enough pasta water to form a creamy sauce. Dinner for one, cobbled together with ingredients that were on hand, was great — and actually something worth serving to company.

You could toss a handful of sliced nori or furikake on top, which would add nice briny notes. But you might as well prowl your pantry or refrigerator to see what else might fit the bill. Sliced scallions or chives, panko bread crumbs, toasted sesame seeds or even some Sriracha might do. Follow your impulses, work with what you have and you might create your next favorite recipe.


Five-Ingredient Creamy Miso Pasta

This one-pot pasta comes together in minutes, and requires zero prep and minimal cleanup. It builds on the classic combination of pasta, butter and cheese with a spoonful of miso paste for complexity. But you could experiment with using any other condiments or spices you have on hand, such as red pesto, curry paste or ground turmeric in place of the miso. To achieve a silky smooth pasta, you’ll need to put your cacio e pepe skills to work: Vigorously toss the pasta, grated cheese and pasta water together to achieve a properly emulsified, silky-smooth sauce. Top with shrimp, edamame, frozen peas or any steamed vegetable. The optional nori or furikake imparts an unexpected flavor of the sea, and it’s worth using if you have it on hand.

Makes: 4 servings

Total time: 20 minutes


Kosher salt

16 ounces spaghetti, linguine or bucatini

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons white (or red) miso

4 ounces Parmesan, finely grated (1 packed cup)

Kizami nori, furikake or thinly sliced seaweed snacks, for garnish (optional)


1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Reserve 1 1/2 cups pasta water, then drain the pasta.

2. Add the butter, miso and 1 1/4 cups pasta water to the pot and whisk over medium heat until miso breaks down and liquid is uniform, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the pasta and Parmesan and cook, stirring vigorously with tongs until cheese is melted and sauce emulsifies. (The key word here is “vigorously.” To achieve a silky smooth pasta instead of a gloppy one, put your cacio e pepe skills to work.)

3. Divide among shallow bowls and sprinkle with nori or furikake, if using.