Roasted zucchini and/or shrimp are common additions to saffron-based pasta sauces. This recipe, however, is about the simplest saffron sauce, which is just made of saffron and cream.
The fat contained in the cream has the ability to bind with parts of the saffron compound that are not water-soluble, thus extracting even more saffron flavor. Just like in Milanese-style risotto, the addition of Parmigiano brings extra depth and completes the dish.
This recipes makes use of a full packet of ground saffron. Ground saffron dissolves more easily and ultimately gives a more intense flavor (for the same amount of weight) than saffron strands. However, since saffron powder may not always be 100% pure, it is important to buy a high-quality brand (such as the Italian “Tre Cuochi” or “Leprotto”). Even though saffron is the world’s most expensive spice, a package of saffron is quite affordable since it only contains between 0.10 and 0.15 grams of powder (Italian saffron can be found in specialty stores for about $2 a package).
- 140 g (1 1/3 cups) dried penne
- 150 ml (2/3 cup) cream
- 1 packet ground saffron (0.125 g or 1/230 oz)
- 20 g Parmigiano Reggiano (4 tablespoons), freshly grated
- While boiling the pasta in plenty of salted water...
- Warm up the cream in a large pan. Make sure it doesn't reach the boiling point.
- Add the saffron powder and a pinch of salt.
- Mix until the saffron is fully dissolved.
- When the pasta is ready, drain it well and add it to the pan.
- Mix until the pasta is uniformly coated.
- Serve in pre-heated bowls, covered with the ground Parmigiano.