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This brown butter sage sauce is rich and nutty, with an herbaceous punch from the sage! Perfect for gnocchi and ravioli.

Brown Butter Sage Sauce

Want a sauce with fall and winter flavors? This brown butter sage sauce hits all the right notes, with rich, nutty undertones punctuated by an herbaceous punch from the fresh sage. It’s simple to whip up and makes gnocchi, tortellini, and ravioli taste like a dream! Brown butter, garlic, and sage work beautifully complemented by lemon zest to brighten. Mix up a batch for a deliciously cozy meal.

Ingredients in brown butter sage sauce

This brown butter sage sauce comes together simply, by browning butter then adding garlic, fresh sage, and lemon zest and juice. The garlic and lemon balance the sweet and nutty brown butter perfectly. Fresh sage is essential here: dried won’t work well as a substitute. This classic flavor combination is well known as an Italian ravioli sauce. Here are the ingredients for this brown butter sage sauce:

  • Gnocchi or ravioli
  • Salted butter
  • Garlic cloves
  • Fresh sage
  • Lemon zest and juice
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt

Tips for brown butter

Making brown butter is key to this sauce. It’s a simple process, but there are a few things to note about the method. Here’s what to know about how to brown butter:

  • Melt the butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

    Brown butter
  • The butter will melt, then turn foamy, then start to become brown in color and smell nutty. The timing will vary each time, but it’s typically around 5 minutes or so.

    Brown Butter
  • Cook just until the butter turns brown and smells nutty: be careful not to overcook! It’s easy to burn butter, so don’t go overboard. For this recipe, once the butter is browned, you’ll turn the heat to low and add the garlic and sage, so it’s important to not get it too browned. In other recipes, you remove it to a bowl to stop the cooking.

    Brown Butter

Best uses for brown butter sage sauce: ravioli and gnocchi

This brown butter sage sauce recipe works best with gnocchi or filled pastas like ravioli and tortellini. We’ve tried this sauce with dried pasta like spaghetti, but it just doesn’t have the impact that it does with a smaller, filled style of pasta. Here are a few notes:

  • The best use is with gnocchi or ravioli. We made ours with 1 pound packaged gnocchi and loved it. You can also use any filling style of ravioli (bonus points for butternut squash, though).
  • A secondary use is tortellini. This works with 18 ounces of your favorite refrigerated tortellini or tortelloni. Keep in mind that this is fresh filled pasta, so the weight does not correspond to dry. Do not use dried tortellini here.
  • Avoid using dry pasta like spaghetti, penne, etc. This browned butter sage sauce gets lost on dry pasta, unless you use large quantities of the butter sauce. We prefer it with a filled fresh pasta or gnocchi.
Brown Butter Sage Sauce

More sauce recipes

This brown butter sage sauce is a favorite in fall! Here are a few more sauces and pasta sauce recipes you can use any time of year:

This brown butter sage sauce recipe is…

Vegetarian and gluten-free.

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Brown Butter Sage Sauce

Brown Butter Sage Sauce

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 3 to 4 1x


This brown butter sage sauce is rich and nutty, with an herbaceous punch from the sage! Perfect for gnocchi and ravioli.


  • 1 pound gnocchi or ravioli*
  • 6 tablespoons salted butter
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 3 tablespoons packed finely chopped fresh sage**
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon and 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for pasta water and to taste


  1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the gnocchi or ravioli and boil as indicated on the package instructions. Reserve ½ cup pasta water, then drain the gnocchi or ravioli and return it to the pot. Toss with a little olive oil if the sauce is not yet ready.
  2. In a large skillet, brown the butter over medium low heat: heat the butter for a few minutes until it melts, turns foamy, and then just starts to become brown in color and smells nutty, stirring occasionally. (The timing varies but should take around 5 minutes.) Be careful not to overcook.
  3. Immediately turn the heat to low. Add the minced garlic, sage, lemon zest, lemon juice and cook 2 to 3 minutes until fragrant and garlic just starts to turn golden. Remove from the heat before garlic browns (watch carefully because it can brown quickly!). Reserve until the gnocchi or ravioli are ready.
  4. In the skillet, toss the drained pasta, grated Parmesan cheese, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, and just enough pasta water until saucy (start with 2 to 3 tablespoons). Taste again and add a few more pinches of salt if desired. Enjoy warm. Leftovers store up to 2 days refrigerated; re-warm in a skillet and add a few pinches of salt if desired.


*Or, use 18 ounces refrigerated cheese tortelloni (or refrigerated tortellini); keep in mind that this is fresh filled pasta so the weight does not correspond to dry. Do not use dried tortellini here. We also don’t recommend this particular sauce for dry pasta noodles (like spaghetti, penne, etc).

**Do not substitute dried sage; it doesn’t translate well here.

  • Category: Sauce
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian inspired
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Keywords: Brown butter sage sauce, sage brown butter sauce

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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