Spaghetti with Lemon and Olive Oil (al Limone)

posted in: Main Dish, Pasta, Vegetarian        date:

Spaghetti al Limone

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 al Limone

  • YIELD: 4-6 servings
  • Salt

  • 1 pound spaghetti

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

  • 1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)

  • ¼ cup heavy cream

  • 2 teaspoons finely grated zest and ¼ cup juice from 3 lemons

  • 1 ounce finely grated Parmesan cheese (about ½ cup), plus more for serving

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons shredded basil leaves

  • 1

    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 1¾ cups of pasta water, drain pasta and set aside.

  • 2

    In the now-empty Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Once hot, add shallot and ½ teaspoon salt, cooking until shallot has softened, about 2 minutes. Whisk in 1½ 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 ½ teaspoon of pepper.

  • 3

    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 ¼ 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.

SOURCE: Cook's Illustrated, January/February 2011
COMMENTS: ( 11 )
  • Islara

    Yum! One of my favorite things to eat is spaghetti noodles tossed in olive oil with red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. This gives it a little spin. I will try as soon as possible 🙂

  • I love lemony pastas. It looks (and sounds) so fresh!

  • Love spaghetti with lemon… what a great recipe and perfect for spring!

  • Thank you for this amazing, but simple recipe! I can’t wait to try it with all the lemons I just bought at the market. I think the lemon zest will be the key!

  • This is my one of my favorite ways to eat pasta. Brilliant!

  • Yum, this looks so lovely!

  • Kim (Feed Me, Seymour)

    I am absolutely in love with this recipe! It’s simple and yet sounds beyond tasty! I love recipes like that, easy to whip up in a jiffy but satisfying and fulfilling.

  • I made this over the weekend and it was wonderful. I’m so looking forward to eating the leftovers for lunch!

  • Looks delicious!

    I also wanted to let you know that I just tried out the recipe you posted over at Beantown Baker. WOW- I must say that those are the most beautiful muffins I’ve ever made! They turned out so light and fluffy. 🙂 I’m sure they taste delicious too – I’m having a tough time keeping my hands off of them while they cool. Thanks for posting the recipe!

    • Courtney

      Aw, thanks! I love the texture of those muffins. And I know what you mean about waiting on them to cool – it’s pure agony, haha. 🙂

  • The Café Sucré Farine

    This looks amazing, YUM! I’m like you – I love most anything with lemon, in fact I did a lemon week on my blog when I found gorgeous lemons on an unbelievable deal. There is something so spring-like about lemons. I will have to add this to my repertoire! Thanks