A brown butter with sage is an elite pasta sauce, or sauce for anything for that matter! It comes together in less than 10 minutes so not only is it super quick, it's SO easy too. Browning butter creates a delicious nutty flavour and the crispy sage takes it to another level. This 10 minute brown butter for pasta is my go to and it works perfectly on any pasta shape.
Hi! I am writing up a separate recipe for this sage butter as a continuation of my guide to the best butter sauce for pasta. I thought it deserved a post all on it's own to really dig deep into the details. A sage butter sauce is so easy! I am going to give you all the tips and tricks to make sure you master this 10 minute brown butter for pasta first time.
Brown butter really is my favourite!
As you can guess from my name, I'm a big fan of a brown butter (burnt butter just sounded better but it should NEVER be burnt!). Butter is completely transformed when you brown it, turning it into an addictive foamy nutty sauce. The French were really onto something when they created this. It works beautifully on pasta but also amazing on fish, vegetables or anything you fancy.
What is brown butter?
It's simple! Brown butter is the result of melting butter until the milk solids in the butter seperate and brown. It also evaporates some of the water so you'll often end up with less than you started with. It's a really simple process and creates a rich, nutty taste that is PERFECT for pasta! Most commonly you might have browned butter when baking (The Cloudy Kitchen Brown Butter Choc Chip Cookies are a staple in my house). There are very clear stages when browning butter which you will get to know really well.
Firstly the butter will melt and then start to sizzle. It will get quite loud and crackly with bigger bubbles. Then it will quieten down considerably and that is when the top starts to foam. This is the stage you need to keep a really good eye on it. It's often quite hard to see what is going on under all that foam so swirl the pan or use a spatula to check those brown bits aren't getting too dark!
- Butter - you can use salted or unsalted but I do personally prefer unsalted and here is why. Butter companies add all different amounts of salt to their butter and honesty, I find some of them too salty. If you have a salted butter you love the flavour of then by all means use that. I like to use unsalted purely so I can control the seasoning myself.
- Sage - You can use other herbs but sage really is the classic and for good reason. You can leave it out altogether if you like!
Other delicious add-ons
I love to make a dish as delicious as humanly possible so often add in some extras to a sage butter, the possibilities are endless!
- Walnuts - I absolutely love adding walnuts to a sage butter, the toasty flavour just sets it all off perfectly. I add in the nuts at the same time as the sage so they toast in the butter. It adds such a textural boost to a pasta dish. Use any nuts you like, hazelnuts or pinenuts, anything you love!
- Lemon Zest - If you are familiar with any of my recipes you'll know I'm a bit of a lemon fiend. I just love it OK?! To me a squeeze of lemon or a sprinkling of zest on top of a finished dish just adds the perfect finishing touch. Add the zest at the end on top, right before serving.
- Black pepper - same as above with the lemon, I LOVE pepper. Cacio e pepe is my death row dish so that kind of explains it. Freshly cracked black pepper enhances everything in my opinion.
- Parmesan - hopefully this one goes without saying. Freshly grated parmesan is a non negotiable for me! The only exception is if the pasta sauce already has a lot of cheese in it. For example my easy cheese sauce with thyme and bacon. But still you'd really have to fight me hard not to go in with more on top!
How to make brown butter for pasta
- Cut your butter into cubes so it melts evenly. Pick your sage leaves, depending on the size of the leaves, I like to allow 6 - 8 per person.
- Melt the butter in a frypan over medium heat and when it just starts to sizzle, throw your sage leaves in.
- Continue cooking the butter, swirling the pan so it cooks evenly.
- The butter will create big bubbles and crackle quite loudly. Feel free to turn the heat down if you think it is cooking too quickly.
- The bubbles and noise will subside and then it will start to foam on the top.
- Keep swirling the pan so you can see what is going on under the foam. We are looking for the specks on the bottom to be brown NOT black. Keep in mind it will continue to cook when you take it off the heat.
Tips for the perfect sage butter
- Use a fry pan that is light in colour. I like to use a stainless steel pan so that I can see what is going on. If you use a black pan it will be almost impossible to see what colour the milk solids are turning and you'll likely burn them.
- Add the sage leaves at the start. A lot of recipes say to add the sage leaves at the end but it adds so much more flavour adding them at the start.
- Swirling the pan rather than using a spatula or other implement will help keep the butter cooking evenly and the keep the foam intact.
- I like to ramp up the heat right at the end just quickly to try and get extra foam. I have an induction cook top so that is easy for me. It's a bit too risky to do with gas.
- Try and spoon the butter carefully so that some foam stays intact on top then skim it off with a spoon to top the pasta. I love the look of the foamy bubbles!
- DON'T add your pasta straight in to the butter. 99% of my recipes I tell you to finish off the cooking of your pasta in the sauce. You don't want to do that here as any stray pasta water that comes with it could make your perfectly crispy sage leaves soggy! Divide the pasta between the bowls then top with the sage butter.
Other buttery recipes to try
I won't shy away from the fact a LOT of my sauces are butter based. It's just too good, I can't (and won't!) stop. Definitely check out my 10 minute lemon butter pasta, it's another quick and easy one. One of my personal faves is my easy white wine and butter pasta sauce or my new 3 ingredient nduja butter pasta.
Best pasta shapes for a butter sauce
I don't think there needs to be rules do you? Use whatever you like best! As I said I have gone for a pappardelle for these but any shape fresh or dried will work perfectly. If you want to have a go at a hand rolled shape, which are my favourite, then check out my hand rolled gnocci sardi or homemade orecchiette.
This 10 minute sage butter is magic on a filled pasta shape, if you haven't tried making filled pastas before start with my triangoli with a simple ricotta filling. It's a really easy beginner shape and the filling is quick and easy. If you really want to push the flavour boat out then you can use a meat filling. My white pork ragu makes THE BEST ravioli filling ever, just wait for it to solidify in the fridge to make it easy to work with. With a sage butter? Absolute perfection.
Made this recipe and loved it?
I would love love LOVE if you could leave me a review down below and let me know what you thought! I love to hear any changes or adaptions you have made too. Also if you put a photo on instagram, please tag me so I can see, it makes my day!Print