This is a delicious and simple sauce, but intense with sage flavor, and perfect for dressing gnocchi. It’s delicious even when just lightly drizzled over fresh grilled fish or poultry— a little is all you need. You can find this simple recipe mostly in the north of Italy, where fresh pasta prevails, but today even the Roman trattorie serve it.
1½ sticks butter (12 tablespoons), or more to taste
10 whole fresh sage leaves
1 cup hot water from the cooking pot of your pasta of choice
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 cup Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat until just foaming. Gently lay the sage leaves in the pan, and heat until the leaves crisp up, about a minute.
Ladle in 1 cup boiling pasta water; stir the sauce, and simmer for about 2 minutes, reducing liquid by half. Grind the black pepper directly into the sauce.
Keep the sauce hot over very low heat; return to a simmer, and immediately add cooked pasta to the sauce. Toss with the sauce, then remove from heat, and sprinkle with the cheese just before serving.