I have to say Rob has been on fire with his recipe ideas recently, this Brown Butter Cream Sauce Pasta being the most recent. Not sure where the idea came from (he’s not either), but it was a real winner. It reminded both of us of a cream sauce pasta from one of our favorite Italian restaurants in Old Town Alexandria, VA. That dish is a cheese stuffed pasta with a rich creamy sauce that is deceptively filling (maybe get 6 pieces of pasta, but its enough).
I know I’ve seen brown butter used in a lot of baking recipes recently but not as much in the general cooking arena. So thats what we set out to do once Rob had this idea.
So, first the basics: what is brown butter? Pretty much exactly what it sounds like, you heat butter and let it brown a bit. It develops a really great nutty aroma and provides a nice base flavor that you wouldn’t get otherwise. The other nice thing about brown butter is that you can infuse a lot of flavor into it early and carry that through your dish. The process of making a good brown butter probably take 7-8 minutes all told. You need to let the butter melt, warm up to start browning, and then reduce the heat to make sure you get a good even brown.
For this specific use, we kept it pretty basic. Just some garlic, lemon zest, salt/pepper, a pinch of red pepper flake, cream, and some parmesan. We started by heating up the butter a bit and then threw the garlic in to infuse. I took the garlic out once it was browning so it didn’t burn and at that point it had served its purpose. What I did find is that the butter/cream mixture does need to simmer for a little longer to reduce down and combine than some of my other cream sauces. I would make sure to give it a solid 10 minutes, so much you you account for that when cooking pasta.
As for the pasta, I went for a stuffed pasta from La Pasta, a DC area brand carried at my local Whole Foods. They make a number of great flavors and, like all fresh pastas, cook really fast. I went with a spinach and cheese filling for this dish to give it some color, but also to provide a little more depth of flavor to the dish.
Brown Butter Cream Sauce Pasta
- 1 Lb Stuffed Pasta Ravioli or Tortellini
- 3 Tbs Butter
- 1 Cup Heavy Cream
- 4 Cloves Garlic smashed
- 1 Lemon zested
- 1/4 Tsp Red Pepper Flake
- 1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese grated
- 1/2 Cup Spinach optional
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Cook the pasta in salted boiling water. Keep in mind that most stuffed pasta cooks is fresh and cooks very quickly.
- In a skillet (preferably stainless or light color interior for color visibility), melt the butter over medium-high heat.
- Once melted and warmed, add the garlic with salt/pepper and allow to become slightly brown, probably 2-3 minutes max.
- Remove the garlic and set aside, reduce the heat to a low medium and allow the butter to brown a bit more, likely 3-5 minutes. The butter should develop a nutty aroma.
- Add the cream, salt/pepper, lemon zest, and red pepper flake. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to maintain the simmer. Allow to reduce for approximately 10 minutes.
- Add the cheese and spinach (if desired) for the last minute.
- Serve the sauce over the pasta.