Spaghetti with Lemon and Olive Oil [Spaghetti al Limone]
This is one of those recipes that are almost better off without one — every ingredient can be adjusted to taste and the technique is just tossing everything about. I consulted a bunch of recipes but ended up being lured in by Cook’s Illustrated’s January 2011 version, as it had so much less heavy cream and olive oil than the others and the threat of bathing suits was a mere 48 hours away! But, I ended up not using the recipe as more than an outline; I didn’t think shallots belonged in the dish, I wanted more lemon juice and I didn’t care for their resting technique — the cheese just glued itself to the pot and not the noodles when I did this — the “toss, toss, toss!” method I used in last year’s Cacio e Pepe does a better, quicker job.
1 pound spaghetti or linguine
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil , plus additional for serving
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 ounce finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup), plus additional for serving
Ground black pepper
Small handful fresh basil or arugula (what I used, deliciously, in a pinch) leaves, shredded
Cook linguine or spaghetti in well-salted water to your al dente tastes in a large, wide-bottomed pot. (You’ll have fewer dishes to wash if you use this pot to assemble the dish as well.)
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.
Drain pasta, reserving 1 1/2 cups of pasta cooking water. 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. Return pasta to pot and stir until coated. Add the cheese and 1/4 cup lemon juice and toss, toss, toss everything together. Add more pasta water, 1/4 cup at a time, if you’d like your dish a little looser. Quickly taste a strand of pasta and see if you want to add the remaining lemon juice (we did). Stir in basil or arugula and season generously with salt and pepper.
Serve immediately, drizzling individual portions with a bit of extra olive oil and sprinkling with extra Parmesan. cheese