Tomato saffron pasta with lemon breadcrumbs

This super easy, one pot, pasta sauce has everything you need to impress. At its core, it’s a simple tomato sauce with a splash of cream. The saffron kicks it up a notch, making this recipe a no brainer for easy weeknight meals or fancy weekend date nights alike. Using tomato paste instead of canned tomatoes keeps the sauce smoother as well as adds more umami. Don’t forget to reserve your pasta water! It’s integral to the success of the sauce. 

Serves 4

  • 4-6 tbs butter 
  • ⅓ cup bread crumbs
  • Zest of ½ lemon, plus a squeeze of juice
  • 1 pinch of saffron
  • 1 onion, very thinly sliced (ideally with a mandoline)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 tsp calabrian chile paste, or chili flakes
  • 4.5 oz tomato paste, about ¾ of a 6 oz can
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 llb dried or fresh pasta. Garganelli, pene, rigatoni, bucatini, or spaghetti all work. 
  • ½ cup cream
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan or grana padano
  • 1/4-1/2 cup reserved pasta water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the breadcrumb topping

  1. Heat 2 tbs of butter in a small skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add the breadcrumbs and sauté, stirring regularly, until toasted and brown, but not burnt. 
  3. Remove from heat and add lemon zest and 1 tbs of grated parm. Salt to taste. 
  4. Set aside. 

For the pasta

  1. Pour ¼ cup of warm water over your saffron to let it bloom. Let sit for 15-30 minutes.
  2. In a saute pan (big enough to hold all the pasta at the end), heat another 2 tbs of butter over medium low heat and add the onions and garlic. Saute on low for 20-25 minutes, until very soft and browned. Add more butter throughout the process if needed.
  3. Add the herbs and saute 30 seconds. Then add the tomato paste and calabrian chili paste. Saute over low for 5-7 minutes, spreading the paste out over the bottom of the pan so that it can caramelize a bit. Stir regularly to avoid burning. 
  4. Add the white wine and saut over low for 5-7 minutes, until it no longer tastes strongly of alcohol. If the mixture gets too dry, you can add a few tbs of water. 
  5. Add your saffron and water mixture, saute for a minute, and then remove from heat. 
  6. Cook your pasta according to the instructions in salty water. When draining, reserve 1 cup of of pasta water. 
  7. Turn your sauce back to low heat, then add the cream and stir to combine. 
  8. Add your pasta and the parmesan cheese (reserving some for topping). Stir until combined. *
  9. ¼ cup at a time, add your reserved pasta water– stopping when the sauce is the appropriate thickness for your liking. You may only need 1/4 cup. Simmer for a minute or two to let it all come together. Check for seasoning and adjust as needed. 
  10. Top with breadcrumbs (warm them up right before) and more parm. 

*if using dried pasta, start by adding 3/4 of the cooked pasta to the sauce. Then slowly add more if you have enough sauce.