No two words have caused me more pause in the kitchen than brown butter. Also known as beurre noisette, brown butter is the versatile sauce that can finish a perfect fillet of fish or add delightful depth to chocolate chip cookies or brownies. It sounds easy: Cook unsalted butter over high heat until the water is removed from the milk solids and the color turns brown. In my kitchen, though, I have turned plenty of brown butter into burnt butter. That was until I took a recent cooking class at Sur La Table in Tampa’s Hyde Park Village.
The class, Make & Take: Fresh & Flavorful Pasta, included making ravioli and herb-filled pappardelle pasta from scratch. But I was in it for the sauces.
Chef Kelly Arnold led the class on a recent Monday afternoon, guiding me and six other participants through the steps of pasta making. While the pasta required some skill, making the brown butter required mostly patience. I started with a stick of unsalted butter and watched it closely as it started to melt and then foam and then bubble. Through it all, Chef Arnold demonstrated the need to swirl the pan to prevent burning. After a few minutes, the butter began to smell a bit nutty, turn a bit brown and develop little brown bits on the bottom of the pan. That’s the time to turn off the heat.
For our recipe, three-cheese ravioli with brown butter sage sauce, we added fresh sage and a bit of sherry vinegar to the brown butter. I have since made the sauce for a traditional sole meuniere, adding just a squeeze of lemon before topping the fish.
During the class, we made our own pasta, stuffing ravioli with a blend of three cheeses and placing fresh herbs inside two layers of pasta dough before rolling it through a pasta machine. After cooking the fresh pasta in boiling water for exactly two minutes, it was done.
We topped the herb pasta with homemade carbonara sauce, which seemed to come together much easier because all of the ingredients were ready to go. That’s another tip I will remember the next time I make the sauce at home. I also need to pace myself while adding the grated cheese. At first, I put in too much, making the sauce a bit too thick.
All the items we prepared in Chef Arnold’s class were packed in to-go containers to travel home. I cooked the pasta that evening and added the step of warming the ravioli with the brown butter sage sauce in a skillet. I cooked thick-cut bacon on my stove and added the garlic before putting the cooked pasta in the pan and adding the egg and cream mixture for the carbonara. This time, I added a sprinkle of the grated cheese and used more to finish the dish before serving.
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Sur La Table offers in-person day and early evening classes, including dine-in programs, ranging from baking bread to making Korean barbecue. The Make & Take: Fresh & Flavorful Pasta class cost $79. Classes for children and teens are also available. surlatable.com.
12 ½ ounces (2 ¾ cups) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon fine kosher salt
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Semolina flour, for dusting pasta and surfaces
To a large bowl, add flour and salt, whisking to combine. Make a “well” in the center of the flour mixture and add eggs and oil. Using a fork, whisk the eggs and slowly blend in the flour mixture, stirring the flour in from the sides of the well and working outward. When the dough is thoroughly mixed, turn it out on a lightly floured work surface. Knead dough until it is smooth and flexible but not sticky, adding small amounts of flour as needed, for about 5 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and flatten into a disc. Allow dough to rest for at least 20 minutes or up to an hour at room temperature.
To roll out and cut dough: Secure a pasta machine to the edge of a long countertop or secure attachment to stand mixer. Using a bench scraper, cut the dough into three pieces. Keep extra dough covered in plastic wrap while working with one piece. Using the heel of your palm, press dough into a flat rectangular shape that will fit in your pasta machine. Using pasta machine on widest setting, roll dough through the machine, catching it with one hand as you roll with the other. Take the dough and fold it into thirds like a letter. Feed the dough through the machine on the widest setting with the open edge of the dough fed through first. Fold, turn and roll once more on the widest setting.
Continue rolling the pasta through the machine without folding, adjusting the rollers to a smaller setting each time, until the desired thickness is reached. If the pasta sheet becomes too large to handle, use a bench scraper to cut it into more manageable lengths and continue rolling.
Cut sheets to desired shapes and sizes, toss with semolina flour, cover with a clean kitchen towel and set aside. Fresh pasta can be cooked immediately or covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 24 hours before use.
Hand-cut Herb Pasta
Layer pasta sheets with tender spring herbs in between very thin sheets of pasta for a unique presentation. Try using a single herb or a mix. We recommend herbs like dill, basil, tarragon or chervil.
1 recipe Pasta Dough
Semolina flour, for dusting pasta and surfaces
¼ cup tender spring herbs: dill, basil, tarragon, chervil, plus 1 tablespoon finely chopped
¼ cup water, for brushing
To prepare pasta sheets: Using a pasta roller, and working with one portion at a time, roll fresh pasta dough into sheets, finishing on the thinnest machine setting. On a lightly floured work surface, place rolled pasta sheets. Cut sheets into smaller lengths, about 5 inches. Using a pastry brush, very lightly brush the pasta sheet with water. Working quickly so pasta does not dry out, distribute herbs evenly across half of pasta sheets, leaving space around each leaf and a 1-inch border around edges. Top herb-covered sheets with another sheet of pasta and press lightly to adhere. Adjust pasta machine rollers to second thinnest setting and gently roll layered pasta through machine. Add laminated pasta sheets to a baking sheet lightly dusted with semolina. Repeat with remaining dough.
To cut pasta: Using a pasta roller with spaghetti-cutting attachment or similar size, roll pasta sheets through. Toss cut pasta with plenty of semolina to separate all strands so they do not stick together. Place cut pasta on baking sheet with extra semolina until ready to cook.
1 recipe Hand-Cut Herb Pasta rolled semithin, cut to spaghetti
¼ cup heavy whipping cream
1 ½ cups Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish
4 large eggs
3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces smoked bacon, sliced crosswise into ¼-inch-thick pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
To a small bowl, whisk together the cream, cheese, eggs and parsley. Season mixture generously with salt and pepper and set aside.
To prepare carbonara: To a large skillet over medium heat, add bacon and cook until the fat has been rendered and bacon is golden brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove skillet from heat and cook pasta.
To cook pasta: To a large pot of water set over high heat, bring to a rolling boil. Generously season water with salt. Add pasta to boiling water and stir immediately to prevent it from sticking together. Cook pasta until al dente, 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs or a spider, remove pasta from boiling water and add to skillet. Quickly toss to coat with bacon and garlic.
Add egg mixture to skillet. Using tongs, quickly toss and evenly coat pasta with sauce. The residual heat from the pan will cook the eggs. (Working quickly will prevent eggs from scrambling.) If the sauce is too thick, thin with additional pasta water. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper.
Garnish with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.