The first time I ever had pappardelle was on a chilly day in Florence at lunchtime in a teeny tiny apartment across from the Duomo (no joke) after a night out dancing and a night in trying to split two twin beds between four people. My friend and I had gone to visit her cousin there, and her cousin was kind enough to accommodate us with what little she had. Her roommate was the only real Italian in the room, and she whipped up a beautiful Bolognese sauce, whose base I think originally came from a jar, seasoning it with salt, pepper, and olive oil, each with a tiny flick of the wrist. It was delicious. Pappardelle became my favorite noodles that day.
Sometimes, you go to the grocery store and you buy familiar ingredients, like butter and chives, so you can make familiar things, like biscuits with goat cheese and brown butter and chives. And sometimes, you get home from the grocery store after buying familiar ingredients, and you make something you’ve never made before. Like this pasta.
When I set this dish in front of Dan that night, he grumbled about how he wanted biscuits, and how this pasta was too simple, and how I should’ve made something else. But then something funny happened. He took one bite, and he closed his eyes, and he wouldn’t answer when I asked him if he wanted something else. This is what he does when he’s tasted something that has made his top ten list of somethings (e.g., chocolate, pancakes…pasta). He has since placed pappardelle in our grocery cart repeatedly with a childish smile on his face, hoping to eat his new favorite pasta dish again. And since I’m nice, I oblige him. Except this pasta is so delicious, it doesn’t feel like I’m doing anyone any favors at all.
Pappardelle with Brown Butter and Chives
8 oz pappardelle pasta
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp high-quality salted butter
1/8 tsp cayenne
1 shallot, chopped
1/4 tsp flaky sea salt, plus more for serving
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp fresh chives, plus more for serving
2 tsp asiago (or other nutty, firm cheese), finely grated
In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add pappardelle noodles, stirring occasionally. Cook until al dente, according to package instructions. Meanwhile, heat a large saucepan on medium heat (this can be done during the last 5 minutes of cooking time for the noodles, as it does not take long). Combine oil, butter, chopped shallot, cayenne, salt, and pepper in saucepan, stirring the ingredients to incorporate. Stir occasionally. The butter will begin to foam and pop; this means it is browning. Once shallots are caramelized and the butter has produced fragrant, brown flecks, turn the heat down to low. As pasta finishes cooking, reserve 1/4 cup pasta liquid. Add pasta liquid to the saucepan with the caramelized shallots and brown butter, stirring to combine. Transfer the cooked noodles to the saucepan, tossing to evenly coat with sauce. Add 1.5 tbsp fresh chives and cheese, stirring to incorporate. Transfer immediately to plates and sprinkle with remaining chives and sea salt, to taste.