Now that spring is finally here, I find myself craving bright, fruity flavors. Although lemons are available year round, their sunny color just screams spring to me. I’ve been on quite the lemon kick lately. I recently made lemon poppy seed muffins for a guest post over at Beantown Baker, and I’m planning on making a different type of lemon muffin this weekend. However, I wanted to make something other than muffins and was on the search for a savory lemon recipe when I found this one. It’s easy enough for a hectic weeknight, and its lemony flavor and lack of a heavy sauce make it perfect for spring.
I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating. It never ceases to amaze me that just a few simple ingredients can turn into something so satisfying. This pasta is a wonderful example of that, and it has easily become one of our favorite meals. Not only is this pasta bright and fruity, it’s also light and refreshing. The sauce is creamy, but it’s definitely not a cream sauce. Rather, the cream helps reduce some of the tartness of the lemon while enhancing the flavors of the olive oil. The flavors of the lemon and olive oil come through the most, but the nutty Parmesan and fresh basil add a lovely touch to the finished dish. Eric was excited when we topped the plated pasta with a drizzle olive oil, saying it was “very Jamie Oliver” of us. Served with a side of garlic bread and a glass of white wine, this dish is the epitome of my ideal spring meal.
Spaghetti with Lemon and Olive Oil (al Limone)
Serves 4 to 6
1 pound spaghetti
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons finely grated zest and 1/4 cup juice from 3 lemons
1 ounce finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup), plus more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons shredded basil leaves
In a large Dutch oven, bring 4 quarts of water to boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta to water. Cook, stirring frequently, until pasta is al dente. Reserve 1 3/4 cups of pasta water, drain pasta and set aside.
In the now-empty Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Once hot, add shallot and 1/2 teaspoon salt, cooking until shallot has softened, about 2 minutes. Whisk in 1 1/2 cups of the reserved pasta water and cream. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add pasta, tossing to coat. Stir in remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, lemon zest and juice, cheese and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.
Cover and allow pasta to stand for about 2 minutes, tossing halfway through, so that the sauce can thicken and pasta can absorb the sauce. If needed, add the remaining 1/4 cup of pasta water to adjust the consistency of the sauce. Stir in basil and add salt and pepper to taste. To serve, drizzle each individual portion with olive oil and sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese.
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, January/February 2011