One lazy evening, on a desperate-for-dinner freezer scrounge, I came across a half used log of frozen herbed butter – a beurre composée if you will. I like to make these with the summer glut of herbs and roll them into waxed paper wrapped logs. This butter has myriad uses, but I mostly use it for grilling. When you have a really good piece of meat, simply grilled, it doesn’t need too much messing with. A little pat of herby butter on top is just the right finishing touch – to a steak, a burger, pork chops, chicken.
On this particular night, hungry, grumpy and lazy, I grabbed the small butter log, boiled up some pasta and stirred in the compound butter. Perfect! This became a regular on my lazy menu. When I make up a compound butter, I take a little extra and wrap it up alone for use on pasta. When I have folks over for grilled food, I put aside a little butter for a pasta dinner the next night. You know – after company when you can’t be bothered to dirty up more dishes or slave over the stove.
Making meatballs for the freezer inspired the butter ball concept. Forming little balls, freezing separately, then tossing in a bag. I portion these with my medium sized cookie scoop, which I’d say is about 2 Tablespoons, and keep them in a freezer bag. One ball is enough for a good serving of pasta. If you make pasta for more than one, just pull out as many balls as you need, adding them one at a time until you hit the jackpot. Thawed out, this is also a great spread for garlic bread. If your are feeling industrious, double or triple the recipe.
Pasta Butter Balls
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
6 large fresh basil leaves
1 Tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley leaves
1 Tablespoon grated lemon zest
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Several grinds of black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) best quality butter, room temperature
Place the garlic cloves and salt in the bowl of a small food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Drop in the torn basil leaves, oregano leaves, and parsley. Pulse several times, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally until finely chopped. Add the lemon zest, parmesan, pepper and salt and pulse until finely chopped and well combined. The mix should look like soft breadcrumbs. Add the butter in pieces and blend until thoroughly combined. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl and break up any large butter chunks.
(This can absolutely be done by hand, just finely chop the garlic with the salt and then add the herbs and zest and chop finely. Stir the pepper, salt and butter together in a bowl, using a fork to mash everything together).
Line a plate or baking sheet with waxed paper and set aside. Using two spoons or a cookie scoop, make balls from the butter and place on the lined baking sheet. Freeze until hard, at least 2 hours, then transfer to a freezer bag or container. These will keep in the freezer for up to six months.
To use, cook pasta as normal, drain and reserve a little of the cooking water. Put the pasta back in the pot and stir in the desired number of butter balls, one at a time, until melted. Drizzle in a little cooking liquid to loosen the pasta.
Makes about 10 balls