This creamy saffron pasta recipe is easy to whip up with a few pantry staples. It transforms an ordinary weeknight into a culinary delight, as the flavor of saffron melds beautifully within a luscious cream sauce.
Just a pinch of saffron threads adds a depth of flavor and a golden hue to any dish or tea that captivates the senses, making each bite a luxurious experience. Although saffron is expensive, a little goes a long way, and this isn’t a spice you can easily substitute.
Why you will love this saffron pasta recipe?
- The recipe requires minimal cooking time, making it perfect for those busy nights or last-minute meals.
- Made with easily accessible ingredients, there’s no need for additional shopping trips.
- The base recipe can be easily adapted to incorporate other favorite ingredients.
- It is surprisingly easy to make that even beginner cooks can handle.
Gather the ingredients for creamy saffron butter pasta.
While this saffron pasta is excellent with just a few pantry staples, I’ve added some healthy veggies for extra fiber. Green peas and leek are my favorite that I always have at hand.
No wonder that saffron is an expensive spice.
Its hefty price tag lies in the meticulous harvesting process; each delicate stigma, or thread, must be handpicked during a short, fleeting blooming period. Often referred to as the golden spice of the world, saffron is cherished not only for its distinctive flavor and aroma but also for its vibrant hue and medicinal properties. Around the festive season, saffron combined with Christmas spices adds a warm and aromatic touch to many holiday dishes. This golden and aromatic spice is often called the “sunshine spice” for its ability to boost the mood featured in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and Mediterranean cuisines or in Spanish dishes like paella.
When buying saffron, avoid fine powder saffron and ensure you’re buying from reputed sellers. Use saffron from health food stores or online stores like Mountain Rose Herbs.
For a creamy saffron pasta recipe, long and flat pasta shapes like fettuccine, tagliatelle, or pappardelle are ideal because they provide a broad surface for the rich sauce to cling to.
I like using unsalted butter to better control the dish’s saltiness.
extra thick double cream
It gives the right creamy texture and richness to this pasta dish and nicely complements the delicate flavor of saffron.
Act as a thickening agent, helping the sauce cling to the pasta and adding its umami flavor to the creamy saffron sauce.
Adding peas and leek to the creamy saffron pasta dish adds a healthy flavor boost. Moreover, their vibrant green hues add visual appeal.
How to make Creamy Saffron Pasta
First step: make saffron water
In a mortar and pestle or small bowl, crush the saffron threads with a pinch of salt. Put it in a small bowl, cover with boiling water, and let it infuse for 20 minutes.
Second step: sauté the vegetables
In a large skillet or pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the finely sliced leek and sauté when butter is melted until soft and translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the peas (if using frozen, ensure they are thawed) and continue to sauté for another 2 minutes. Pour the ½ cup cream to the butter to stop it from browning, and bring to a simmer. Whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into the cream mixture 1 tbsp at a time, ensuring each addition of butter is fully melted before adding the next. This method helps to emulsify the sauce.
Third step: Cook the pasta
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook al dente pasta according to the package instructions. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water, and set aside.
Fourth step: make a saffron cream sauce
While the pasta is cooking, finish the sauce. Add saffron water to the skillet with sautéed vegetables, pour the remaining heavy cream, stirring continuously to combine with the leek and peas. Turn the heat to low and allow the cream to heat up without boiling it. Heat gently until simmering. Stir half of the parmesan and remove it from the heat.
Fifth step: Add the pasta to a saffron sauce
Add drained pasta directly to the sauce and toss lightly to mix. Add the remaining parmesan cheese and toss again. Season with freshly ground black pepper and garnish with chervil or parsley. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes.
Variations to saffron pasta sauce
Here are some variations to cater to different tastes and dietary preferences:
1)For non-vegetarian version
- Add bite-sized pieces of sautéed or grilled chicken breast to the sauce for a hearty, protein-packed meal.
- Incorporate sautéed shrimp for a seafood twist.
2)Replace peas and leek
- sautée mushrooms like shiitake, cremini, and portobello for an earthy flavor.
- Add sautéed spinach and crumbled feta cheese for a Mediterranean touch.
3)Vegan Twist: Use a vegan butter substitute and cashew or almond cream instead of the double cream. Replace the parmesan with a vegan cheese alternative or nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor.
4)Gluten-Free Option: Use gluten-free pasta varieties like rice pasta, quinoa pasta, or chickpea pasta to make the dish suitable for those with gluten sensitivities.
5)Spice it Up:
- Add red chili flakes or garlic cloves
- Mix in fresh herbs like basil, parsley, or dill for added freshness and flavor.
6) Add white wine or vegetable broth to enhance the flavor
Add the wine to the skillet after sautéing the leek and peas, allowing it to simmer and reduce by half before adding the cream.