I think everyone needs a recipe like this in their repertoire: a delicious dish that can be prepared in less than 15 minutes. And when I mean, 15 minutes, I seriously mean one person can get it done in 15 minutes. But don’t let the fancy title fool you to think that it’s a fancy dish, because it’s literally translated to “Lemon Pasta”, spaghetti cooked with lemon paste. Most of the ingredients can be found in any well-stocked pantry, all you need to remember to have lemons and fresh basil. As you can see in my picture above, I forgot to grab some fresh basil this time, and it turned out delicious without them. There are so many variation of this recipe, but I really appreciate the simpleness of this dish, it is light and refreshing from the lemon flavoring, but still hearty… because it is still a pasta dish after all. When I use whole wheat spaghetti, I usually double the amount of lemon paste to make sure that the light lemon flavor can stand up to the whole wheat flavor in the pasta.
3/4 pound (3/4 box) spaghetti
1 1/2 cups finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3–5 tablespoons of pasta water, to thin
Handful fresh basil leaves (from 4 leafy stems)
Boil the spaghetti in salted boiling water, according to the package directions.
Meanwhile, using a Microplane, grate the zest from the lemon into a large mixing bowl. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into the bowl (I like to use the grater as a strainer—one less thing to clean). Add the 1 1/2 cups Parmesan, pepper, and a pinch of salt, and mix in the olive oil to form a wet paste.
When the spaghetti is perfectly cooked, add 2 or 3 tablespoons of the cooking water to the lemon and cheese mixture. Add the spaghetti to the bowl and toss thoroughly, adding another tablespoon or 2 of pasta water if necessary so that the sauce coats each strand. Roughly tear in the basil leaves.
Serve each portion with a sprinkle of coarse salt, a fresh grind of black pepper, and a few gratings of extra Parmesan.
Yield: 2-3 servings
Adapted from My Father’s Daughter