We teamed up with Kerrygold to highlight pasta’s favorite plus-one: butter. Here, Food52's Resident Pasta Maker—Meryl Feinstein of Pasta Social Club—shows us a few tasty ways to pair up Kerrygold’s creamy-rich Pure Irish Butter with gnocchetti, spaghetti, ravioli, and more.
Growing up in the ‘90s, butter was not a staple in my house. Low-fat, sugar-free yogurt? Sure. Velveeta? Yes. But real, delicious, creamy butter? Not so much. It wasn’t until I met my British husband that butter started to make its way into my life and onto my toast. And it was even later, in culinary school, when I realized I could hardly go a day—or a meal—without it. So here I am, 30 years old, just trying to make up for lost, butter-less time.
As a chef and pasta-maker, butter often takes center stage. It’s the cooking medium of choice in much of northern Italy, where cattle is abundant and the temperatures are cooler. And although I love a good butter sauce, I also find it’s when butter lingers in the background—the first layer of flavor in a ravioli filling or swirled into a meaty sauce at the last moment—that a dish becomes truly luxurious, satisfying, and altogether balanced.
Take this recipe’s caramelized onions, for example, which are perhaps my favorite wintertime pasta accompaniment. They’re sweet, they’re savory, they’re perfect in every way. And they're best when they start with no small amount of really good Kerrygold butter.
Here are some of my favorite ways to pair butter and pasta year-round, so you’ll never have to be without two of the world’s greatest pleasures again.
1. As a sauce, of course
Ok, let’s get the obvious out of the way: Melted butter on pasta brings our childhood dreams and adult cravings to life. But when I’m not downing late-night spaghetti with butter and Parmesan, I generally serve it with stuffed pastas so the flavors of the filling (vegetables! Proteins! All of the cheeses!) can really shine.
Whether it’s simply emulsified with starchy pasta water, cooked until nutty and golden, or infused with fresh herbs, butter is an ideal dressing for delicate tortelloni, agnolotti, and ravioli.
2. As a finishing touch
Sometimes a dish just needs a little extra something—that’s when I reach for the butter. In meat sauces (or, in my case, sauces with a meat substitute), a final touch of butter can bring a subtle layer of richness that pulls everything together.
In creamy sauces, kill the heat and whisk in a few small pieces of cold butter to keep things smooth and luscious. And my favorite: In tomato sauces, a pat—or three—of butter helps tame the acidity (so it actually tastes like tomatoes!) and imparts a velvety texture while still feeling light (thank you, Marcella Hazan!). You can even add a little butter to store-bought sauces to wake things up. It’ll make all the difference.
3. As a vehicle for your favorite flavors
Fancy compound butters aren’t just for steak. Simply mix some softened butter with a few pantry and fridge staples and you have yourself an instant pasta upgrade. Of course, fresh herbs and raw or roasted garlic are always a win, but the combinations are endless: sharp Parmesan, spicy chiles, sweet black garlic, briny anchovies, dare I say truffles…you get the point.
4. As a pasta filling hero
I first saw butter used as an ingredient in pasta filling when I was working at a restaurant in New York. Needless to say, I haven’t looked back. My favorite combinations are a generous drizzle of brown butter alongside squash in the winter and sweet corn in the summer. The best part is that it makes the filling mixture creamier and easier to work with, and transforms each bite of the finished dish into an explosion of buttery goodness.
We’ve partnered with Kerrygold—you know and love ‘em for their butters and cheeses made with milk from Irish grass-fed cows—to share all sorts of delicious recipes to dig into this winter. Whether you’re baking up tender apple scones with brown butter-maple drizzle or whipping up this comforting gnocchetti, Kerrygold’s lineup of butters and cheeses are must-have kitchen staples.