I love butter. I come from a family of butter-fiends. My mother eats it in chunks from the pat, with a spoon, and my father spreads it as thick as cheese on his toast. Glamorous it may not be, but I could happily eat this dish every day for the rest of my life. It also demonstrates perfectly the essential (and often overlooked) skill in making pasta sauces, and the first thing everyone learns when they start cooking pasta in Italy; that the pasta cooking water must be added to the finished dish, to both emulsify the sauce and melt the grated cheese into a creamy consistency. Once you have learnt how to do this, you will never look back. The earthiness of the sage is what really grounds this recipe, so don’t be tempted to leave it out. The echo of a ‘salve’, seems fitting too, as this dish is deepest comfort.
Serves: 2 unrestrained diners, or 1 hungover/fragile one
Time: 10-15 minutes
Photography: Matt Russell, Styling: Tamara Vos
Season: Year Round
220 g (7¾ oz) dried pasta of your choice (I like risoni or any ‘short’ pasta best)
120 g (4¼ oz) butter
8–10 small sage leaves
70 g (2½ oz) Parmesan, grated, plus extra to serve
Bring a large saucepan of well-salted water to the boil. Drop in the pasta.
Place the butter in a wide, shallow pan and put on the lowest heat. Add the sage and cook for a moment or so to gently to release the aromas.
Drain the pasta when it is at your perfect al dente, reserving a cup of the cooking liquid. Add half the cooking water and the pasta to the pan with the butter and sage and turn up the heat.
Stir and toss well for a minute or so, then add the cheese and toss again and again, until an emulsified and silky sauce forms. If it looks too dry, add more of the cooking water, too wet, carry on cooking. Serve with more cheese.
If you’re after a Sardinian summer, Letitia Clark’s Bitter Honey will give you it. It’s the summer holiday we spent all of 2020 dreaming of and you’ll want a copy on your shelf. Published by Hardie Grant, £26. Photography © Matt Russell.