Miso cream rigatoni pasta

Miso Sauce for Winter Pasta

Combine caramelization and umami for warming comfort food.

Photo by Zach Zhang

Miso’s unique umami and the concentrated intensity of caramelized onions take this seven-ingredient dish to new flavor heights.

When you’re craving warmth and comfort when the weather is brisk, this rich and creamy pasta is bound to satisfy.

Umami means “pleasant savory taste” and is often referred to as the fifth taste, joining the pillars of sweet, salty, bitter and sour. Foods with umami are high in the amino acid glutamate and have a complex, meaty and savory flavor profile. Miso, seaweed, soy sauce, gravy and parmesan cheese are a few examples. Combining miso, chicken stock and heavy cream produces an umami-centric sauce without cheese.

Caramelizing onions also boost the dish’s flavor. Caramelization results when sugar interacts with heat and changes in color and flavor. Natural sugar is found in vegetables like onions, which allows them to caramelize, get darker and intensify in flavor.

"Onions contain large sugar molecules that we can't perceive in their raw form, but as those molecules are broken down into smaller molecules by heat, we're able to perceive the sweetness," ICE Chef Seamus Mullen explained on Martha Stewart.

In this recipe, you’ll see the sliced onions evolve as they caramelize, first sweating out and getting tender, then fully softening and gradually changing in color to a rich golden brown. Caramelized onions are also great on a cheese board, your favorite sandwich or mixed in with roasted vegetable sides.

You probably have most of the ingredients for this pasta sauce in your pantry already; if you need white miso, it can easily be found in Asian markets and likely even your local grocery store.

Whether you serve it as a hearty main or a warming side, this caramelized onion and miso cream pasta comes together easily, boasts a uniquely savory flavor and will impress guests and family alike.


Miso Cream Rigatoni with Caramlized Onions

Yields 4 servings


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock (not low-sodium)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons white miso
  • 8 ounces rigatoni (or your favorite pasta shape)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


  1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the sliced onions, season with salt and pepper and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.
  2. Once the onions start to soften and color, turn the heat down to medium and continue cooking and stirring until they caramelize, about 20 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken stock, heavy cream and miso to the onions and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook over medium-high heat for 5-8 minutes, until the sauce slightly thickens. At this point, taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper as desired (you may find you don't need any additional salt, due to the miso’s inherent saltiness).
  4. In boiling salted water, cook the pasta of your choice until al dente. If you prefer a less thick sauce, add a splash of pasta water to the miso mixture before draining the pasta.
  5. Drain the pasta and add to the pot of sauce, tossing with tongs to coat everything together well.
  6. Serve immediately with a few generous cranks of freshly ground pepper.

Make fresh handmade pasta in an online recreational class.

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