I got this recipe via email from my Milk Street subscription. What appealed to me were the simple ingredients, quick preparation time (hello weeknight meal!), bright flavors, and the use of a lemon.
With this recipe, I also appreciated the use of starchy pasta water along with a generous bit of butter to thicken the sauce instead of some recipes which call for cream. This leads to a cleaner, lighter, and brighter finish.
This Italian-based recipe comes from the Campania region of Italy where there is an abundance of lemon trees along the Amalfi Coast.
Spaghetti al Limone (serves 4)
- 5 tablespoons salted butter, divided
- 8 cloves of garlic, minced
- red pepper flakes, to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon to start then adjust accordingly)
- 10-12 ounces spaghetti or linguini
- 3/4 cup dry white wine (plus extra for the chef!)
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest
- 3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 cup of chopped parsley (or basil leaves)
- finely grated Parmesan cheese
- salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Prep lemon zest, herbs, and mince garlic. Preheat 2 quarts of salted water for pasta.
- In a large skillet, melt 3 tablespoons butter (I also added some olive oil to the mixture). Add the minced garlic and cook stirring for about 30 seconds.
- Add the red pepper flakes and cook for one more minute
- Add the white wine and simmer until reduced, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Bring pasta water to a boil. Cook the pasta until 2-3 minutes short of the directions (pasta will continue to cook later in the skillet).
- As pasta nears time, ladle of 1 1/2 cup of pasta water then drain pasta
- Return the skillet to medium high heat, stir in the reserved pasta water, and bring to a simmer. Add the drained pasta and stir to mix.
- Lower the heat until gently simmering.
- Add 2 remaining tablespoons of butter, a very generous grind of black pepper, the lemon juice and zest, and the parsley.
- Continue to simmer until the sauce has thickened and the extra water has evaporated. This is a key step. You don't want a watery sauce so simmer until the pasta glistens with starch and fat and the sauce has thickened.
- Transfer to serving dishes and serve with some grated Parmesan cheese
- Garnish with a lemon slice or a sprig of fresh parsley or basil