Making brown butter is an easy and useful technique to learn, and here we’ve combined it with fresh sage, walnuts, chicken, and whole wheat penne to make a simple yet elegant pasta dish that’s perfect for a weeknight dinner or a casual company meal.

A single serving of penne pasta in sage brown butter sauce with chicken, walnuts, shallots, and a garnish of chopped parsley and ground nutmeg.

The delicate, nutty taste of brown butter adds a wonderful depth of flavor to a variety of foods. As long as you stay attentive, making brown butter (beurre noisette in French) is a quick and easy technique to perfect.

How to Make Brown Butter

  • For best results, choose a stainless or enameled cast iron pan for making brown butter. Nonstick and pans with dark-colored interiors will make it nearly impossible to tell when the butter reaches the right stage of brown.
  • Melt the butter over medium heat until you see the butterfat and milk solids (small white flecks) separate.
  • Swirl the pan from time to time and continue cooking until the milk solids turn brown and the butter develops a nutty aroma, 3 to 5 minutes. Don’t walk away and leave the butter unattended as it can burn very quickly.

Note: When making brown butter with nuts and/or fresh herbs (like in this recipe), simply add those ingredients as soon as the butter has melted. The nuts will toast as the butter browns and the herbs will release their flavor.

A frying pan filled with penne pasta, chicken breast strips, and toasted walnuts tossed with with brown butter sauce and garnished with parsley.

Love the flavor of fresh sage? Try this meatless pasta recipe that pairs it with butternut squash, whole wheat spaghetti, and pine nuts: Spaghetti with Roasted Butternut Squash and Sage

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Penne with Chicken, Walnuts and Sage Brown Butter

Brown Butter Pasta with Chicken

5 from 3 votes
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Making brown butter is an easy and useful technique to learn, and here we've combined it with fresh sage, walnuts, and whole wheat penne to make a simple yet elegant pasta dish that's perfect for a weeknight dinner or a casual company meal.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces whole wheat pasta, (penne, rotini, cavatappi)
  • 4 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, (1 to 1-1/4 lbs)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 8 fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • Freshly ground nutmeg, (optional)

Instructions

  • Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta.
  • Place the chicken breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap, gently pound them to an even thickness of about 1/2-inch, then slice them crosswise into 1/4-inch thick strips.
  • Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a stainless or enameled cast iron frying pan and add the shallot. Sauté until softened, 2 to 3 minutes, then add the chicken and season lightly with salt and pepper.
  • Continue cooking until the chicken is lightly golden on all sides and no longer pink in the middle, 3 to 4 minutes (be careful not to overcook). Transfer the chicken and all its pan juices to a bowl and set aside.
  • Wipe out the pan and melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the walnuts and sage and continue cooking until you see the butterfat and milk solids (small white flecks) in the butter starting to separate.
  • Continue cooking, swirling the pan from time to time, until the milk solids turn deep, golden brown in color, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the reserved chicken and pan juices, combine well and cover to keep warm.
  • Cook and drain the pasta according to package directions, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Return the pasta to the pan and combine it with the chicken and brown butter sauce mixture, adding a little of the pasta liquid if needed.
  • To serve, plate individual portions, garnish with chopped parsley and a little freshly ground nutmeg.

Tips for Making This Recipe

  • Use a stainless steel or enameled cast iron pan with a light-colored interior so you can keep a close eye on the color of the butter as it browns.
  • Use unsalted butter. Salted butter has a tendency to foam more which makes it harder to judge when the color is right.
Calories: 444kcal, Carbohydrates: 39g, Protein: 10g, Fat: 28g, Saturated Fat: 12g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 46mg, Sodium: 447mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 2g
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