This creamy garlic butter sauce for tortellini is easy, quick and amazingly creamy. Make it with fresh or frozen tortellini for a quick restaurant-style meal. No flour required!
What is Tortellini?
Tortellini, which is Italian for “little cakes”, are delicious little filled pasta packages. They’re great for easy weeknight cooking, and because they are typically filled with meat, cheeses, or herbs, you can often forego chunky sauces and pursue something very simple.
For this sauce, we’ll be using some butter, garlic, Parmesan cheese, heavy cream and herbs to make a restaurant-style meal.
Best Sauce for Tortellini
One of the coolest things about this tortellini sauce is how quick and easy it is to make! Of course, it’s indulgent enough - and impressive enough - to fire up if you’ve guests over or a date night coming up. Like a lot of home-style Italian cooking, this is a versatile meal that is sure to please just about everyone who tries it.
What Makes This Recipe Special?
For a start, we’ll be using browned butter, which has a sweet, nutty flavor. This complements the Parmesan cheese we’re using as the source of umami flavor in the sauce. We’ll smash up some garlic cloves to bring that delicious flavor to the forefront, and, of course, using some simple herbs and seasonings to take this recipe from good to great.
It is an easy to make tortellini sauce that requires only simple ingredients.
How To Make Tortellini Sauce
- First, you’ll want to smash your garlic cloves. Be sure to shell them first, and crush them using a knife, a rolling pin, the round edge of a spoon, or a mortar and pestle.
- Add your smashed garlic to a deep skillet with butter, melting the butter over medium heat, and stir for about five minutes. At that point you should have a noticeable garlic aroma rising from the skillet. Once the garlic and butter turns brown, throw in a lug of olive oil to keep it from burning.
- Next, you’ll stir in your heavy cream, add Parmesan and your seasoning. Bring this mixture to a boil, and then immediately reduce to a simmer, stirring as you go.
- Tortellini cooks really quickly, so at this point you’ll want to boil your tortellini in a separate pot full of salted water. You want the pasta water to be, as the Italians say, “as salty as the sea”. Once the tortellini has cooked, drain the pasta, but keep a small cup of the starchy pasta water on hand in case your sauce needs thinning out. Add your drained tortellini to the skillet, stirring to combine. If the sauce is too thick, add a small amount of your leftover pasta water at a time, stirring through, to thin it out. If you’re happy with the sauce’s consistency, you can simply throw out the water.
- You don’t have to brown the butter. The difference in flavor is subtle, and unbrowned butter will work just fine. However, as any great cook will tell you, little differences are what separates good dishes from gourmet dishes. Remember that there’s a fine line between browned and burnt butter, which is why we use a splash of olive oil to prevent burning. You can, if you prefer, simply melt butter, allowing it to foam, without browning it.
- If you can, shred the cheese yourself from a block rather than using store-bought pre-shaved cheese. It will taste better, melt easier, and blocks of cheese are typically of a higher quality than the pre-grated bags.
- If you don’t have any Parmesan, that’s OK! You can substitute it for pecorino romano. Most of the salty, crumbly, hard Italian cheese have similar flavors and textures, but their depth of flavor varies based on region of origin and their aging period.
- You can use a classic four-cheese (look for quattro formaggio on the label) tortellini, to really make this an indulgent, cheesy treat. If you like, however, there are a variety of other tortellini you could try. Some have pumpkin, spinach, or even meat fillings, and they all work very well in this sauce.
- You could use half and half rather than heavy cream for this recipe, too. It will make your sauce thinner, however. If that happens, add 1 tablespoon flour ( mixed with water).
- If you want to really take this to the next level, try sauteeing some mushrooms in a different skillet with thyme and olive oil. Add them to the sauce at the end to bulk this dinner out. You could even try adding pancetta or bacon to the mushroom skillet!
You can store in an airtight container for up to three days in the refrigerator, or you could freeze it for up to three month.
If you’ve frozen your leftover tortellini sauce, thaw it overnight in the fridge, and use a makeshift double boiler to reheat it on the stovetop to return it to its original creamy consistency. This is a great way to reheat creamy sauces.
If you end up with excess sauce for leftovers, we do recommend that you store the sauce separately. Although most pasta stores relatively easily, tortellini, particularly if it is made with eggs or cheese, does not reheat very well. You’d be better off storing your excess sauce separately and cooking a fresh batch of pasta for when you want to reheat it.
Like many creamy, savory dishes, you want to garnish with something bright and fresh. Typically, Italian restaurants will top a cheesy pasta dish with parsley. Its bright green color, and fresh flavor are wonderful balances for this delicious dinner.
Looking for more pasta sauces? Try these!!
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