How To Make a Brown Butter and Sage Sauce

updated Aug 15, 2022
How to Make Brown Butter and Sage Sauce

This simple, classic sauce pairs well with gnocchi, ravioli, tortellini, or really any pasta.


Makes1/3 cup

Prep2 minutes

Cook10 minutes

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Brown butter sage sauce.
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

Brown butter and sage are a classic couple that will never steer you wrong. Whether you use the sauce to dress a bowl of pasta or add another dimension to a simple risotto, it’s instant success with very little effort!

The process of browning butter consists of gently heating it in a skillet until the water evaporates and the milk solids begin to brown, at which point it acquires a wonderful flavor complexity and a pleasant toasty note that makes it a real treat. You’ll know the butter’s ready when it’s goes from a lemony yellow to golden tan to, finally, the color of toasted hazelnuts.

The sage imparts a deeply satisfying, musty, herbal note to the nutty brown butter, adding depth (plus a pleasant crispness) to a sauce that’s perfect in its two-ingredient simplicity. You can leave the sage leaves whole or chop them up to enhance their presence in the final dish. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

Using Brown Butter and Sage Sauce

A few dishes in which brown butter and sage go perfectly are potato gnocchi or pumpkin gnocchi (add nutmeg and black pepper to the sauce, then finish off the dish with grated Parmesan and crushed toasted walnuts). It’s also great with filled pasta like ravioli or agnolotti, or tossed with fresh tagliolini or tagliatelle, or stirred (cold, this time) into a risotto with mushrooms right before serving.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell
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Here's how to make a sage and brown butter sauce.

How to Make Brown Butter and Sage Sauce

This simple, classic sauce pairs well with gnocchi, ravioli, tortellini, or really any pasta.

Prep time 2 minutes

Cook time 10 minutes

Makes 1/3 cup

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 8 tablespoons

    (1 stick) unsalted butter

  • 15

    small fresh sage leaves

  • Kosher salt


  • Large skillet

  • Wooden spoon or heatproof spatula


  1. Make the brown butter. Cut 8 tablespoons unsalted butter into 8 pieces. Place in a medium light-colored frying pan over medium heat. Swirl the pan occasionally to be sure the butter is cooking evenly. As the butter melts, it will begin to foam. Continue to cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the color goes from lemony-yellow to golden-tan to, finally, a toasty-brown that’s the color of toasted hazelnuts, about 8 minutes total. Meanwhile, pat 15 small fresh sage leaves dry if they’re damp.

  2. Fry the sage. Add the sage leaves to the pan and cook until they crisp up, which will take a few seconds. Immediately scrape the mixture into a heatproof bowl. Let cool slightly, then taste and season with kosher salt as needed. Use the sage sauce on pasta, tortellini, ravioli, gnocchi, or risotto.

Recipe Notes

Salted butter variation: You can use half salted butter if you like your sauce to be less sweet.

Storage: The cooled sauce can be refrigerated a few days, or frozen in ice cubes trays for up to 2 months. Let frozen cubes sit out until room temperature before using.

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