Like many of you, I sometimes struggle to cook at home. It's easier to order out or heat up a frozen meal. But cooking for yourself can be just as convenient as ordering Postmates for the fifth night in a row, not to mention much cheaper! Let me introduce you to pasta in butter sauce. We all know buttered noodles from childhood, but for some reason (probably because it's not particularly healthy) we stopped eating them in our adulthood. Why?!
This is a super simple meal or snack you can throw together with four or five ingredients. Plus, you can dress this simple dish up with just about anything in your pantry, creating many different flavor combinations. Here is a simple version that I have made several times, and has served me well as a dinner for one, or with the addition of some sauteed vegetables or a protein, a perfect dinner for two.
Adult-Style Buttered Noodles
Dried or fresh pasta (like linguine or tagliatelle)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 Thai chili
1/2 stick butter
Red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt it heavily, so it tastes like sea water.
2. Melt half of the butter in a small sauté pan over low heat. When butter starts to foam, add the crushed garlic and ½ to 1 Thai chili, split in half.
3. Allow the butter to brown over low heat, stirring occasionally. When the butter becomes very foamy and light golden brown, turn off the heat and add the red pepper flakes.
4. Add the pasta to the pot of boiling water, cooking until al dente (2-3 minutes for fresh pasta or refer to the box instructions for dried pasta). When the pasta is cooked, add it to the sauté pan along with two to three tablespoons of the pasta water.
5. Toss the noodles and butter together. And return to medium heat. The more you toss and move the pan, the more the brown butter will emulsify with the pasta water. We can accelerate this by adding small amounts of the remaining butter into the saute pan, along with a small shot of red wine vinegar.
6. Continually shake the pan in a circular motion over the heat until - voila! - the sauce emulsifies and thickens.
7. At this point, remove the pasta, so you can cook down the sauce to the right consistency, and season it properly. It should be spicy, tangy, rich, and for me, it warms my body.
8. Remove the garlic and Thai pepper, and mix the sauce back with the pasta, and plate it up nice and pretty, because you deserve it!
This is really a very simple meal that uses mostly just pasta and butter, but you can use it as a template. Want to add artichokes? Go for it. Want to not brown your butter, and add Parmesan cheese? Sounds amazing. It's a super simple technique, emulsifying pasta water, butter, and a little acid, that I fall back on as a cook time and time again, because it's so simply delicious. Not to mention, it's incredibly cheap and easy. I hope this helps you venture into easy emulsified sauces, and if you want to learn to make the fresh tagliatelle I used for this dish, be sure to check out an upcoming Pasta Workshop or Pasta Boot Camp at The Chopping Block.