Saturday, March 19, 2011

Pasta with Lemon and Olive Oil

I saw this recipe in January's Cook's Illustrated and mentally filed it away to try later. It looked good, but not exactly like a complete meal. When Smitten Kitchen did her own take on it in February, I again mentally filed it away to try. But it wasn't until a friend mentioned she had been wanting to make it for dinner and I realized I needed a quick dinner option to serve to other people that the recipe clicked. I wanted to make this recipe into more of a full meal, so I added a little pancetta and instead of basil, I used some baby spinach that I had on hand. I went from a small handful to many large handfuls, leaving the leaves whole and letting them wilt in the pasta. Arugula would've probably been better, but I still had baby spinach left over from the broccoli cheese soup. I also substituted fresh fettuccine for the spaghetti just because I'm not a big fan of spaghetti and fresh pasta seemed like it would add a nice extra dimension.

The end result was bright and lemony without being overly tart. This dish also comes together and a flash and relies mainly on ingredients you usually have on hand ... all things that make it a winner.

One year ago: Another pantry friendly pasta dish ... Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper Pesto

Pasta with Lemon and Olive Oil (adapted from Smitten Kitchen, originally Cook's Illustrated)

450g fresh fettuccine or boxed spaghetti
2 - 3 lemons
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil , plus additional for serving
1/4 cup heavy cream
30g finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup), plus additional for serving
Ground black pepper
3 cups or so baby spinach or arugula
150g pancetta, thinly sliced and crisped in a frying pan if desired

1. Cook pasta in well-salted water to your al dente tastes in a large, wide-bottomed pot. (SK tip: You’ll have fewer dishes to wash if you use this pot to assemble the dish as well.)
2. While pasta is cooking, zest lemons until you have a little shy of a tablespoon of zest. Juice lemons — you’ll have anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 cup lemon juice.
3. Drain pasta, reserving 1 1/2 cups of pasta cooking water.
4. Dry out your pot, then boil the olive oil, cream, zest and 1 cup of the reserved pasta water together for two minutes over high heat.
5. Return pasta to pot and stir until coated. Add spinach and stir until wilted.
6. Add the cheese and 1/4 cup lemon juice and toss, toss, toss everything together. 7. Add more pasta water, 1/4 cup at a time, if you’d like your dish a little looser.
8. Quickly taste a strand of pasta and see if you want to add the remaining lemon juice (we did). Stir in pancetta and season generously with salt and pepper.
9. Serve immediately, drizzling individual portions with a bit of extra olive oil and sprinkling with extra Parmesan cheese.

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