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My guide to the best butter sauce for pasta

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5 from 5 reviews


Two delicious variations of butter sauces to make your pasta dishes shine. A nutty browned butter with crisp sage and a dreamy emulsified lemon butter sauce.


For the browned butter

  • 200g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 10 - 12 sage leaves (I like to use 3 - 4 per plate)
  • Salt to taste

For the emulsified butter sauce

  • 150g unsalted butter, cubed
  • Juice of half a lemon (1 - 2 tbsp depending on your preference)
  • Salt to taste


For the browned butter

Timings are quite crucial here and it might seen stressful the first time you make it but you will get used to it quickly. Butter sauces come together quite quickly, so you will be making them and boiling your pasta simultaneously. If you know the browned butter takes around 4 minutes then take that into consideration when you start the pasta.

  1. Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat.
  2. Add in the sage leaves as the butter is melting and bring to a sizzle. 
  3. Add a big pinch of salt then continue to cook, swirling the pan from time to time until it begins to foam and the milk solids separate and brown.
  4. Add your pasta straight in, trying not to get any pasta water in.
  5. Serve and enjoy!

For the emulsified butter sauce

As I mention above, you will get used to the timings.

  1. Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat until it begins to sizzle.
  2. Lower the heat and add the lemon juice, whisking vigorously while shaking the pan at the same time.
  3. Add 1/4 cup pasta water and repeat, making sure you whisk fast to bring the liquids together.
  4. Add your pasta straight in and let it gently bubble away for a minute before serving.
  5. Add more pasta water if you need.


  • The amount of butter in the recipes is a guide, start with that (or halve for two people) and then see if you need more or less next time. After a couple of times you will be making butter sauces with your eyes closed.
  • For the emulsified sauce there is huge opportunity to add any other flavours you like. A scattering of fresh herbs, capers - anything you like!
  • I love topping the lemon butter sauce with toasty breadcrumbs you can find a delicious panko topping idea here
  • Prep Time: 10 mins