Saffron Tagliatelle

saffron tagliatelle pasta
A unique pasta recipe with a delectable saffron sauce

This saffron pasta is a subtle, luxurious pasta dish, lent a pop of freshness from peas, a dash of sour heat from Aleppo pepper, and a rich crunch from hand-torn bread crumbs. The unique flavors and textures come together to celebrate saffron, a spice that so rarely gets to be the true center of attention. 

While the saffron sauce makes this dish inherently a bit fancy, it’s simple and quick to make.

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tagliatelle pasta with saffron sauce

Recipe Notes

saffron pasta ingredients
hand torn bread crumbs
aleppo pepper

I recommend getting all the ingredients ready before beginning to cook.


  • Saffron is the stigma of the saffron crocus, a flower that grows mainly in the Mediterranean , parts of Asia, India, Italy, Spain, and France. 
  • Because each flower grows only a few threads and must be hand-picked, saffron is expensive.
  • Luckily, it’s also potent, and offers an array of health benefits.

Heavy Cream

  • Real heavy cream or whipping cream must be used for this recipe for the sauce to reach the right consistency— the fat content in the cream will allow it to simmer and reduce without splitting under the heat.

Bread Crumbs

  • I love the texture of bread crumbs on pasta! Tearing bread by hand can be a little tedious, but I promise it’s worth it. 
  • You could also choose to forego the breadcrumbs entirely— I certainly have, and the pasta still shines.

Petite Peas or Snap Peas

  • I really prefer this recipe with snap peas because the fresh crunch is so heavenly with the rich pasta! But outside their season (mainly spring, but also summer or early fall in some regions), snap peas are expensive and not very tasty, so the rest of the year I use frozen petite peas, which are still great.
  • Use as many peas as you want! 

Aleppo pepper

  • Aleppo pepper is mildly spicy, and has a fruity, slightly sour flavor.
  • If you can find it, I highly recommend having it on hand, as its such a unique and delightful flavor. If you can’t find it, go without, or use a light sprinkle of red pepper flakes if you like spice. 


  • Any long pasta is great with this recipe! I prefer tagliatelle because I enjoy its flat noodles, which are a little thinner than linguine and a little wider than fettuccine. They’re like delicate ribbons, and the sauce is very delicate too, so they compliment each other. 
measuring cup in colander
My never-forget-to-save-pasta-water trick!
reserving pasta water
Reserving pasta water before draining.
easy saffron sauce
This is what the sauce looks like when its done— it’s very thin.

Pasta Water 

  • I know I can’t be the only one who has forgotten to save the pasta water and poured it down the drain!!
    This is how I avoid that: I place the measuring cup inside the colander, so when I look at the colander to drain the pasta I’ll be reminded.

Less Water = More Starch

  • You might be wondering why the recipe calls for a specific quantity of water to cook the pasta in, and its because very starchy water is going to make a velvety sauce! 

Thin Sauce

  • The sauce is not too thin, don’t worry! (See photo example above)
  • Even when the pasta is added to the sauce it won’t thicken immediately. It really thickens upon your plate as you eat, so just trust in the thinness.
saffron threads
Saffron threads.
crushed saffron
Saffron after grinding.
adding pasta water to ground saffron
Adding pasta water to ground saffron.

Mortar and Pestle

  • I have a mortar and pestle in my kitchen, so that’s what I use to crush the saffron. Alternatively, a spice grinder could be used, or the back of a wooden spoon and a bowl.

pasta with peas and bread crumbs

Saffron Pasta Recipe

Saffron Tagliatelle


  • 8 quart pot
  • 2 cup liquid measuring cup
  • Colander
  • Medium sauté pan, any material
  • Wooden spoon or big spoon
  • Mortar and pestle (see recipe notes above for alternatives)
  • tongs


  • 1/4 of a baguette or equivalent quantity of crusty white bread stale bread will be crispiest
  • 1 tsp olive oil divided
  • Salt
  • 3/4 cup frozen petite peas OR 6oz fresh snap peas trimmed and halved crossways on the bias
  • 16 oz tagliatelle
  • 2 medium-large shallots minced small (about 1/3 cup when minced)
  • 1/2 tsp unpacked saffron threads
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 2 cups pasta water reserved from cooking
  • Aleppo pepper for topping


  • Bring 5-6 quarts of well-salted water to a boil and cook the tagliatelle until al dente. Reserve 2 cups of the pasta water before draining, then drain the pasta and set aside.
  • While the pasta cooks, prepare the bread crumbs. Use your hands to tear the baguette or bread into small pieces, around 1/4” in size, until you have around 1 1/2 cups worth of crumbs. Move the crumbs to a medium sauté pan, season lightly with salt, and drizzle with 1/2 tsp of the olive oil. Use a wooden spoon to toss the crumbs, and toast over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the bread is crisp and golden in places. (If the bread is fresh, it will have more moisture, and this step will take a few minutes longer.) Transfer the bread crumbs to a dish and set aside. Keep the pan available to cook the peas later.
  • Return the empty pasta pot to the burner and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the butter and the shallots, season with salt, and cook, stirring, about 4-5 minutes, or until the shallot is translucent.
  • While the shallots cook, prepare the peas. In the empty bread crumbs pan, add the remaining olive oil to cook the peas. For petite frozen peas: cook from frozen over medium-low heat for 3 minutes while stirring. When tender, transfer to a dish to avoid overcooking. For snap peas: Sauté the peas over medium heat until bright green and crisp-tender with a few lightly golden spots, about 5-6 minutes. Transfer to a dish and set aside.
  • In the pasta pot, add the wine to the shallots, bring to a simmer, and allow to reduce by half, around 3-4 minutes. While the wine reduces, crush the saffron threads into a fine powder using a mortar and pestle. Ladle around 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water into the mortar with the saffron and stir with the pestle.
  • When the wine has reduced, add the saffron water from the mortar to the pot. Add 1 1/4 cups more of the reserved pasta water, pouring it into the mortar to get all of that saffron goodness. Stir in the cream and allow the sauce to simmer 8 minutes and reduce slightly. (The sauce will still look too thin, but it isn’t. See photo in recipe notes. It will thicken as it clings to the pasta and even after it is plated.)
  • Add the pasta to the pot and toss well (I like to use tongs for this.) Add more of the reserved pasta water to loosen if needed. Plate the pasta topped with the Aleppo pepper, peas, and breadcrumbs.


I’ve arranged the recipe steps so that the entire dish will be ready at the same time, which means the directions require some multi-tasking. Reading the recipe through once or twice before beginning will help! If you prefer not to multi-task, prepare the breadcrumbs first, followed by the peas. Then, cook the pasta and make the sauce.

I hope you enjoy this special pasta and the glory of saffron! Cheers!

saffron pasta with bread crumbs, peas, and aleppo pepper
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