California and Italy have much in common, which explains why many simple Italian dishes featuring fresh ingredients are popular in the Golden State. One dish that deliciously merges the Old World with the new is California-Style Buttered Pasta.
While red sauce is the most familiar match for Italian pasta, as you move into Northern Italy the tomatoes and olive oil give way to creamy butter as a popular pasta topping. Northern Italy is a major dairy region, much like California, which is the largest milk and butter producer in the U.S.
This delicious dish couldn’t be simpler to prepare, combining cooked pasta with the rich natural taste of California butter. The dish comes together as quickly as you can cook the pasta.
A topping of toasted bread crumbs adds a pleasing crunch. And for a uniquely California variation, substitute grated Dry Jack for Parmesan. Dry Jack is an aged form of the ever-popular Monterey Jack, both of which were created in California.
Hearty enough to serve as a main course with a green salad on the side, California-Style Buttered Pasta is also a perfect accompaniment to any type of meat or chicken dish. It also goes well with fish because its rich yet subtle flavors do not overwhelm even the most delicate fish.
This recipe works best with slightly wider forms of pasta, such as linguini or fettuccini, which provide a nice balance between the pasta and butter coating. It will also work nicely with a penne or rigatoni style of pasta. But feel free to use your favorite type.
CALIFORNIA-STYLE BUTTERED PASTA
Yield: 3-4 entrée servings
or 6-8 as a side dish
1 pound (16 ounces) dried or fresh linguini
2 tablespoons salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) California butter
1 cup (4 ounces) freshly grated California Dry Jack or Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup toasted bread crumbs
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. In a large (6-8 quart) pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add salt and pasta.
2. While pasta is cooking, cut butter into 1-inch pieces and set aside to soften.
3. When pasta is cooked to desired doneness, drain in a colander, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Return drained pasta to the cooking pot and add butter, half the grated cheese and half the bread crumbs. Toss, coating well. Add the reserved pasta water to moisten. Season with freshly ground black pepper.
4. Transfer to a serving bowl or portion into individual pasta bowls and sprinkle remaining cheese and bread crumbs on top. Serve immediately.