This easy and delicious Saffron Pasta Recipe calls for just a few good quality ingredients and only 15 minutes of your time. The flavors of garlic, vermouth, and red pepper flakes accentuate the saffron's natural flavor without overpowering it. And though it tastes like a decadent pasta dish, it's actually quite light.
Because of how quick and easy it is, this Saffron Pasta recipe makes for a perfect weeknight dinner option all year long.
I recommend buying good quality saffron threads such as these from The Spice House or this Zaran Brand from Amazon. Saffron is an expensive spice, but it's also quite potent. Meaning very little saffron goes a long way. Therefore, you can purchase 1 ounce and it will last you several recipes.
How to Make Saffron Pasta
The basic process of making this delicious saffron pasta recipe is to sauté garlic and red pepper fakes, deglaze with the saffron water, lemon, plus some white wine or vermouth, and add a touch of butter to emulsify the sauce.
Then you just add the pasta and toss it all to coat. It's similar in its simplicity to other pasta recipes on my site such as this Red Wine Mushroom Pasta.
Aside from maybe the saffron threads, you probably already have most of the ingredients on hand.
- Pasta (mafaldine pictured in photos)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Lemon juice and zest
- Red Pepper Flakes or Aleppo pepper
- Vermouth or white wine
- Saffron threads
- Kosher salt
As you'll learn from many saffron recipes, one crucial step to cooking with saffron is soaking it in warm water to extract its flavor. Then you use this saffron infused water to impart saffron flavor into the dish.
Step 1: To start, boil a medium or large pot of salted water for the pasta. (enough salt to make the water taste lightly salty) While that's coming to a boil, make the saffron-infused water by combining ½ cup of hot water and about 15 threads in a small bowl. Set it aside until needed.
I used Savory Spice's notes on how much saffron to use when cooking as a guide for this recipe.
Step 2: When the water boils, add the pasta. As soon as you drop the pasta in the boiling water, you can also start making the saffron sauce...
Step 3: To a cold 3 quart skillet, add the olive oil, sliced garlic cloves, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Then turn on the flame to medium heat. (Heating the garlic and oil together from cold gives the garlic more time to infuse the olive oil without burning.)
About 2 minutes later, or just before the garlic starts to turn golden, add the lemon zest and juice, wine, salt, and saffron-infused water.
Step 4: Let the sauce simmer while the pasta cooks. Once the pasta is al dente (just slightly undercooked), add the butter, salt, and al dente pasta to the saffron sauce, and toss it all to combine. (use tongs to transfer pasta directly to the sauce.)
The sauce should reduce to a thick liquid consistency. If it appears loose, simply cook it for 1 more minute. If it's too thick, add a splash of water.
Step 5: Transfer the Saffron Pasta to serving bowls and enjoy.
- If the sauce thickens more quickly than the pasta cooks, simply turn it down to low heat or turn the heat off completely. Then turn the heat back on when ready to combine the pasta with the saffron sauce.
- You'll notice there's no black pepper in this recipe. That's because black pepper is actually quite strong and can overpower the delicate flavor of saffron.
- Pasta water adds thickness and "creaminess"to the saffron sauce without needing to add heavy cream.
Best Types of Pasta for Saffron Pasta
My favorite types of pasta to use for this recipe are
- Tagliatelle for its long silkiness that allows the saffron sauce to really shine
- Mafaldine: long and silky, but with some ridges. (pictured in photos)
- Orzo for if you want to mimic a spanish-style rice using a tiny pasta shape.
- Sardinian gnocchi (which is made of flour, not potato like regular gnocchi) and is classically paired with saffron.
Variations on Saffron Pasta
- Creamy Saffron Sauce: to make this saffron pasta dish creamy, add a splash of heavy cream to the sauce right before adding the pasta.
- Add protein: To make the dish more protein packed, you can start the saffron pasta sauce by sautéing a half pound of shrimp or ground chorizo. Simply saute the chorizo or shrimp, then remove it from the pan and set it aside. Then make the sauce as the directions indicate. Toss the shrimp or chorizo back in at the end.
- Tomato saffron pasta: tomato and saffron classically pair very nicely together, as seen in many Spanish dishes like paella. To make this dish tomatoey, add 1 tablespoon of tomato paste after the garlic has sautéed, and cook for 1-2 minutes. Then add the deglazing liquids as the recipe states.
- Add frozen peas: Is there any dish peas can't improve? I didn't think so.
Where to buy saffron
Though most grocery stores sell saffron, it tends to be of lower quality and flavor. I recommend purchasing this Zaran Brand from Amazon or these from The Spice House. (affiliate links)
Saffron Pasta Recipe:Print
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: 4 as a side dish, 2-3 as a main 1x
- Category: Pasta
- Method: Cooking with Saffron
- Cuisine: italian, spanish
- Diet: Vegetarian
A simple saffron pasta recipe that allows the saffron's unique, beautiful flavor to stand out.
- ½ pound of pasta
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- 4 Garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- The zest of 1 lemon and the juice of ½ of the lemon.
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes or aleppo pepper
- ¼ cup of vermouth or white wine
- 10 Saffron threads
- 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
- To start, boil a medium or large pot of salted water for the pasta. (enough salt to make the water taste lightly salty) While that's coming to a boil, make the saffron-infused water by combining ½ cup of hot water and a pinch of saffron threads (about 15 threads) in a small bowl. Set it aside until needed.
- When the water boils, add the pasta. As soon as you drop the pasta in the boiling water, you can also start making the saffron sauce.
- To a cold 3 quart skillet, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the sliced garlic cloves, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Then turn on the flame to medium heat. (Heating the garlic and oil together from cold gives the garlic more time to infuse the olive oil without burning.)
- Transfer the Saffron Pasta to serving bowls and enjoy.
Keywords: Saffron pasta
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