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A Sprinkle Of Za'atar Will Take Your Buttered Noodles From Boring To Brilliant

fresh za'atar in a wooden bowl
fresh za'atar in a wooden bowl - Bhofack2/Getty Images

From an ancient medicinal herb to one of the most beloved spice mixtures from the Middle East, za'atar is the secret weapon to elevate a unidimensional plate of buttered noodles to gourmet heights. Similar to curry paste or five spice, za'atar contains numerous ingredients in one convenient package, leveraging a multi-faceted flavor bomb that the otherwise dull noodles will benefit from. Originally named for a medicinal herb popular in the Levant and mentioned in the Bible,  za'atar is a combination of herbs with numerous variations. Most za'atar mixtures contain a blend of dried herbs, sumac berries, sesame seeds, and salt. Herbs vary from region to region, but encompass some or all of the following: oregano, thyme, marjoram, cumin, coriander, caraway, and fennel.

Sumac offers a bright tanginess to pair with earthy, savory herbs and rich, nutty sesame. Butter is the perfect vehicle to enhance the flavors in za'atar and incorporate the mixture into noodles while adding another layer of richness from the dairy. You can use za'atar the same way you use salt, sprinkling a few teaspoons over your buttered noodles as the final pièce de résistance. You could even make za'atar-infused butter to spice up a bowl of popcorn!

Read more: 12 Tips You Need When Cooking With Spices

Tips For Za'atar Noodles: Flavor Pairings And Techniques

close up of buttered noodles fresh herbs and spices
close up of buttered noodles fresh herbs and spices - Bhofack2/Getty Images

Za'atar buttered noodles can be simple, but there are important methods that will transform your butter into a bona fide sauce. This transformation allows you to layer on even more flavors to make the most of the spices.

A flavorful butter sauce begins by heating the butter and adding aromatics like chopped garlic or garlic powder. A squeeze of lemon juice provides complementary acidity for butter's richness. If you don't want to add extra ingredients, brown butter offers a richer, nuttier flavor profile. The key to making butter into a pasta sauce is reserved pasta water, which provides salt and starch to thicken the mixture into a sauce that coats the noodles and leaves decadent residuals to sop up with bread.

Za'atar will blend and disperse into the butter sauce effortlessly. If you want to enhance the flavor and texture of the noodle dish, mix za'atar with fresh Parmesan cheese; you can add half the mixture to the butter sauce and reserve the other half for sprinkling on top. The spice blend pairs well with any savory or sweet ingredient you want to add. It would taste delicious with shrimp and chicken. Roasted chickpeas with za'atar make a wonderful pasta garnish. Other salty cheeses like feta or ricotta salata are also worthy pairings. Roasted vegetables are popular foundations for za'atar, so you could also throw drained cans of roasted red bell peppers or fire-roasted tomatoes into the pasta.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.