We weren't really adept at browning butter and took a completely uneducated stab at it. Guess what? It's not hard, and as long as you don't decide to take a shower while making it, you probably won't mess it up. The milk solids in the butter turn brown and create a sediment at the bottom of the pan, which in turn coats the pasta as tiny brown freckles that are delicious.
We added a teaspoon of brown sugar to our butter because we wanted a hint of sweetness on the pasta. It's barely noticeable, just a warm little something...
After the fact, we found this article on Chow, which has some good tips:
• How to Brown Butter
Pasta with Brown Butter and Fried Sage
serves six as a side dish
1 pound pasta (penne or another shape with some texture)
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped, fresh sage
Cook pasta in well-salted water. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Swirl occasionally to keep the butter from burning. Add salt and brown sugar and whisk to combine.
Continue cooking the butter, still swirling or whisking occasionally, until it turns a light caramel color and the solids at the bottom of the pan are slightly darker brown. This should take about 10-15 minutes, depending on how wide your pan is. Toss in the sage, wait for the butter bubbling to subside, and cook for another minute or two.
Drain pasta, put in a bowl, and toss with the butter and sage. Salt to taste, if necessary.
Related: Recipe: Browned Butter (a creamy version for spreading!)
(Image: Elizabeth Passarella)