Cheese Tortellini & Asparagus in Brown Butter Sauce

Cheese Tortellini & Asparagus in Brown Butter Sauce

Cheese Tortellini & Asparagus in Brown Butter Sauce is super simple, super fast, and super delish! It also has just a bit of a sophisticated air about it, which means it’s a perfect fast meal for a family dinner or great if a friend or two drops by. “Would you like to stay for dinner?” “Umm, yes, please!”

Cheese Tortellini & Asparagus in Brown Butter Sauce

Cheese Tortellini & Asparagus in Brown Butter Sauce

I don’t know about you but I usually have a package of cheese tortellini in the pantry and they are such a great save for those “I have to eat but don’t know what to make and it’s 5:00” nights. Cheese Tortellini can be served plain, tossed with a tomato sauce or Alfredo sauce or you can make this bit of fabulousness. A bit of asparagus, a simple browned butter sauce, a touch of garlic, lemon and herbs and a shaving of cheese and dinner is ready. In under 20 minutes. “Umm, yes, please!”

About Cheese Tortellini & Asparagus in Brown Butter Sauce:

You’re gonna love the simple flavors of this dish and they’re just a bit unexpected. The tarragon is lovely and leans this dish a bit more toward the French than the Italian side of the spectrum. If you’re not a tarragon fan, a little combo of basil and oregano might be just your thing.

You can easily change this recipe up in a few different ways. Leave out the meat if you’re looking for a vegetarian dish, or use ham or prosciutto. If asparagus isn’t your thing, try sun-dried tomatoes, Slow Roasted Oven Tomatoes, or roasted bell peppers. Feel free to riff and make this dish your own.

The brown butter sauce is subtle and gives this dish just a little hit of panache with the touch of garlic to bring the flavors home. Leftovers are marvelous but get a little dry, though. Add some liquid, a little broth or a touch of water to counteract that. If you want to, pull out a jar of something if you lean that way. Either a tomato or an alfredo sauce will blend so well with the existing flavors and can give this dish an instant makeover.


Cheese Tortellini & Asparagus in Brown Butter Sauce

Cheese Tortellini & Asparagus in Brown Butter Sauce

Making Cheese Tortellini & Asparagus in Brown Butter Sauce:

I love this recipe because it’s fab, obviously but I love that the pasta and the asparagus are cooked together in the simmering water and then just finished in the browned butter sauce. You’ll just drop the asparagus in after the pasta has a head start.

The biggest trick to making Cheese Tortellini & Asparagus in Brown Butter Sauce is to really watch that butter. Use a heavy bottomed pan and be ready to immediately add in the pasta (which will immediately cool it down) if it looks as if the butter is getting too hot. If the butter goes too far (you’ll see it separate and dark bits forming) you’ll probably need to start over. Taste it and see; if it tastes good, you’re golden but you’ll know in a heartbeat if it has burnt.


Cheese Tortellini & Asparagus in Brown Butter Sauce

Cheese Tortellini & Asparagus in Brown Butter Sauce

Saving on Cheese Tortellini & Asparagus in Brown Butter Sauce:

This whole meal is inexpensive, especially if the asparagus is in season and/or on sale. Check Aldi if you have one, for the asparagus. This is even more inexpensive if you leave out the ham (use leftover holiday ham for an inexpensive option) or prosciutto and go totally vegetarian.

When shopping for the tortellini, if cost and convenience is a big consideration, go for the dried tortellini. A fresh, refrigerated tortellini is always going to be more tender and has an edge in the quality department.

The lemon and cheese are just gilding the lily. When serving a dish topped by cheese, you’re going to find that the price is usually less if you buy it by the block or wedge and grate or shave it yourself. I love shaving – less cheese but bigger flavor! I also love Romano over Parmesan. Romano is usually a bit stronger than Parm and costs less. A little goes a long way so it’s a great way to get more “bang for your buck” flavor-wise.

Anytime I buy butter, I stock up. I find great prices at Aldi and also during holiday sales, when butter is often at a discount especially before Thanksgiving and Christmas and before Easter. I literally count out the weeks until the next big holiday sale and buy and freeze the amount I think I’ll use. If you’d like to see specific items on sale during any particular holiday, check out my post Win at the Grocers.


Cheese Tortellini & Asparagus in Brown Butter Sauce

Cheese Tortellini & Asparagus in Brown Butter Sauce


Cheese Tortellini & Asparagus in Brown Butter Sauce

A simple but sophisticated dinner ready in under 20 minutes.

  • Author: mollie kirby
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings


8 to 9 ounce package dried or fresh cheese tortellini
2 teaspoons salt for water
8 ounces to 1 pound of thick asparagus, cut into 1 1/2″ lengths, stems separated from tips
4 tablespoons butter
cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon or two teaspoons dried
4 ounces Prosciutto or thinly sliced ham, optional
1/2 lemon in wedges for garnish
Parmesan or Romano shavings for garnish


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, or if you have a large enough skillet, use that.

If using dried tortellini, add to pot and set timer for 8 minutes when it comes to a boil. After four minutes, add the asparagus ends and at 7 minutes, add the asparagus tips. Test pasta and when al dente, drain.

If using fresh tortellini, add the asparagus stems to the pot and simmer for 1 minute, then the pasta and simmer for two, then the asparagus stems and simmer for an additional minute until pasta is heated through but still al dente. Drain.

For fresh or dried tortellini:

In the pot, add the butter and heat over medium-high heat until butter begins to turn golden brown. Add garlic and prosciutto or ham, if using. Add tarragon. Add the pasta/asparagus back into the pot and toss.

Serve with shavings of Parmesan or Romano and wedges of lemon.


If planning on serving leftovers, do not store with the lemon or Parmesan. They become too strong with time.

Very thin asparagus may need to cook for slightly less time

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I will be sharing Cheese Tortellini & Asparagus in Brown Butter Sauce at Fiesta Friday #229, hosted this week by Liz @ Spades, Spatulas & Spoons.


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Cheese Tortellini & Asparagus in Brown Butter Sauce - A fab way to freshen up any tortellini and done in about 20 minutes! #CheeseTortelliniBrownButter #PastaBrownButter #CheeseTortelliniRecipe #MostlyPantryRecipe

23 thoughts on “Cheese Tortellini & Asparagus in Brown Butter Sauce

  1. Beverly Bailey

    I made this tonight and it was delicious. I didn’t change a thing which is very unusual for me. I even got my husband to eat asparagus. Thank you.

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Hi Beverly, it;s my pleasure! Thanks for stopping by to comment and I’m glad you both liked it. Mollie

  2. My mother always browned butter. Maybe it’s a French thing? I’ll have to ask, although not sure if she’d have an answer now. But it’s just so darn good. Definitely in this pasta!

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Hi Mimi, sorry to reply so late! I know I saw your comment so maybe only replied in my head! I don’t know why I didn’t put it together that you come from a French heritage – you’ve got it all, the looks, the name and the cooking talent! I never really ever heard of brown butter until I saw it on some cooking show or another but it is amazing! Especially in chocolate chip cookies, but that’s ano. post, lol!!

      • No big deal. Actually my DNA test showed that I was about 63% Italian, which didn’t make my mother very happy!!! My birth name was Marie-France. Nope. Wasn’t ever pronounced right or spelled right, and I’d always gone by Mimi unless I was in trouble, so when I was 18 I changed my name. I also changed my last name because I’d never gone by it, as I only knew my stepfather. So I dropped the Sicilian name and changed to Parma, my stepfather’s name. Also Italian. TMI? These days there’s no way I could probably do this, but back in 1974 I just signed a paper in an office!

        • FrugalHausfrau

          I love family history so, no,, it’s all fascinating! My Dad came through as 1 percent Italian…from where we may never know, and 14 percent Scandinavian – probably his English/Scottish side mingled with the Norsemen! So that explains our freckles, lol!! Yes, my name got lengthened out when I was in trouble, too, haha!! If you did that today, you’d probably be on someone’s list. Bwaaaha!

  3. Browned butter sauce is a great way to dress pasta esp tortellini. I enjoy adding fresh sage leaves to the sauce in the last few minutes as well.

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Sage is a great idea! It makes me wish I liked butternut squash more coz I could see using the brown butter sage sauce wiht the tortellini and the a little squash as the vegetable.

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Hi Barbara, we’re still having the most wonderful asparagus in the markets. I actually didn’t even check where it came from, but I do love those big thick spears. 🙂

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