We don’t do a lot of pasta in our house. While most of the time I just don’t think of it, there is a bit of intentionality to that decision. It’s a whole lot of carbs and not much ‘staying power’ when it comes to filling you up. But I break the mold once in a while when a recipe catches my eye. This combination of brown butter with fresh herbs and plump tomatoes struck me as having great balance. The savoriness is cut with some acid and made refreshing by basil. When pasta makes its next appearance in our house, this will be a top contender. See full recipe below.
4 tablespoons butter (I use unsalted, but salted is also fine)
1/2 pound (8 ounces) spaghetti noodles
1/4 cup pasta water + more if necessary (don’t throw it out!)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (not shredded) + more for topping if desired
Freshly ground black pepper
Recommended (but optional) toppings for a little variation: fresh chopped basil, cooked chopped bacon, halved cherry tomatoes
1. In a small, thick-bottomed pan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Continue cooking the butter over medium heat, whisking frequently, until the foam subsides and the butter begins to turn brown and smell nutty, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat immediately and set aside. Note: It is really easy to burn brown butter, so watch it carefully. It turns brown really fast (and can also burn really fast!)
2. Meanwhile, set a large pot of water to boil. Cook the pasta to al dente per package instructions.
3. Using tongs, lift the cooked spaghetti noodles out of the water and place in a large pasta bowl. You can drain the noodles in a colander, too, but remember to reserve some of the pasta water! It’s crucial for this recipe.
4. Pour the browned butter and 1/4 cup of the pasta water over the noodles. Sprinkle with Parmesan and add a few turns of freshly ground black pepper. Using the tongs, toss well until all ingredients are incorporated and have mixed to coat the noodles with an almost creamy sauce. Add more pasta water – a couple of tablespoons at a time – if necessary to achieve this.
5. Top with additional Parmesan cheese if desired. Serve immediately. Top individual portions with basil, bacon, or cherry tomatoes, if desired.