Friday, March 2, 2012

Pasta with Lemon

Buttery, slippery, garlicky, salty--that's how I like my pasta. Liberal shaves of a great Parmesan and almost always a few grates of fresh lemon zest. Sometimes a pinch of red pepper flakes. The recipe below combines all those ingredients, but ramps up the lemon for a flavorful pasta to welcome spring.

This is based on a Cook's Illustrated recipe. I added the garlic, red pepper flakes and upped the butter. Butter always adds a richness to pasta dishes. Use a quality cheese and salt. If using sea salt, go easy and add gradually. I usually use kosher salt. This wonderful paired with a supermarket rotisserie chicken for a quick weeknight dinner or weekend summer picnic.

(Serves 2-4)

  • 8 oz. quality spaghetti
  • 2-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter (I used Plugra)
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 1 small garlic clove, pressed
  • 2 tablespoons cream (or sour cream)
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan (I used Grana Padano)
  • Red pepper flakes, just a pinch or two
  • 8 basil leaves, shredded, plus more for garnish
  • Salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook until done, reserve one cup of the pasta water before draining.

Add about one tablespoon olive oil to the pasta pan and add the minced shallot and red pepper flakes. Cook for about 2 minutes being careful it doesn't burn. 

Remove pan from heat and add 3/4 cup of the pasta water and 2 tablespoons of the cream. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook for about 2 minutes.

Return the pasta to the pot and stir until coated with the sauce. Stir in another 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, the butter, lemon zest, lemon juice, about half the cheese, garlic and salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and allow to rest several minutes. If necessary, add a bit more of the pasta water, butter and/or olive oil. Don't be afraid to add more cheese. Stir in basil leaves. Taste for salt.

Drizzle individual portions with a bit more olive oil and sprinkle with grated cheese.

A bowl of leftover pasta such as this makes for a great lunch. It's easily warmed in the mircrowave. The longer this sat, the better it got!

(Notes: If you want a more mild flavor to the garlic, add it to the shallot mixture just before adding the liquid.)