Italy and California have a lot in common, which could explain why some simple Italian dishes featuring fresh ingredients are popular in the Golden State. While red sauce is the most familiar in Italian pasta, as you look into Northern Italy the tomatoes and olive oil give way to creamy butter as the most popular pasta topping. Northern Italy is a major dairy region, much like California, which is the largest milk and butter producer in the United States.
This delicious dish is very simple to prepare, combining cooked pasta with the rich and natural taste of California butter. The dish only takes as long as it takes you to cook the pasta.
A sprinkling of toasted bread crumbs adds a nice crunch. For a California variation on this recipe, substitute grated Dry Jack for Parmesan. Dry Jack is an aged form of Monterey Jack, both of which were created in California.
Hearty enough to serve as a main course with a green salad on the side, California-Style Buttered Pasta is also a great accompaniment to any type of meat or chicken dish. It also goes well with fish because its rich yet subtle flavors do not overwhelm even the most delicate fish.
This recipe works best with wider forms of pasta, such as linguini or fettucini, because it provides a nice balance between the pasta and butter coating. It can also work well with a penne or rigatoni style of pasta, but feel free to use whatever type suits you best.
CALIFORNIA-STYLE BUTTERED PASTA
Yield: 3-4 entrée servings or 6-8 as a side dish
1 pound (16 ounces) dried or fresh linguini
2 tablespoons salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) California butter
1 cup (4 ounces) freshly grated California Dry Jack or Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup toasted bread crumbs
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a large (6-8 quart) pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add salt and pasta. While pasta is cooking, cut butter into 1-inch pieces and set aside to soften.
When pasta is cooked to desired doneness, drain in a colander, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Return drained pasta to the cooking pot and add butter, half the grated cheese and half the bread crumbs. Toss, coating well. Add the reserved pasta water to moisten as needed. Season with freshly ground black pepper.
Transfer to a serving bowl or portion into individual pasta bowls and sprinkle remaining cheese and bread crumbs on top. Serve immediately.