Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lemon Spaghetti...Part Deux

Good evening everyone!  I begin this week with a slightly used recipe.  I recreated this recipe over a year and a half ago (while I still went by my maiden name - my how time flies!)  The blog was still quite a baby back then and we were still novice chefs.  Whilst the premise is still the same for tonight's dish, adding a few more tricks of the trade, incorporating new techniques and adding a few more ingredients, I hope that tonight's recipe will, at least, improve upon an old favorite.

The Recipe:  Spaghetti with Lemon and Olive Oil (al Limone)
Original Recipe Found On:  www.cooksillustrated.com

What You'll Need:
1 Pound Spaghetti
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Medium Shallot, minced
1/4 Cup Heavy Cream
2 Teaspoons finely grated zest and 1/4 Cup juice from 3 Lemons
1/2 Cup finely grated Parmesan Cheese
2 Tablespoons shredded fresh Basil Leaves

Note:  I will try to keep my comparisons of the two recipes until the end, as not to confuse myself and you, the reader.

To start, bring a large Dutch oven with four quarts of water to a boil over high heat.  Add freshly ground salt to the boiling water and add the pasta in.  Cook according to the package directions.  Most in the cooking world would call this al dente.  Since I haven't got the 'al dente' part quite figured out, I usually say about one to two minutes before the pasta is completely done cooking.  This keeps a bit of a bite to the pasta without crunching down on a uncooked noodle.  Reserve 1 3/4 cups of the pasta water and set aside.  Drain the pasta in a colander and set aside.

Oh boiling water, always so boring to watch...

While the spaghetti is cooking, zest all three lemons into a small bowl.  After zesting is complete, cut the lemons in half and, using a lemon juicer, squeeze the juice into another small bowl.  I ended up with about a 1/2 of cup of juice and since the recipe calls for 1/4 cup, it worked perfectly.

The whole kitchen will smell like lemons for days

Next, using the Dutch oven, turn the heat down to medium high and heat one tablespoon of oil until shimmering.  Add the minced shallot and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Cook until the shallot is softened but not yet browned, about two minutes.  Whisk in 1 1/2 cups of the reserved pasta water and cream into the pot.  Bring this mixture to a simmer and cook for two minutes.  Remove from the heat and return the pasta to the  pot, stirring to coat.  Stir in the remaining three tablespoons of oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, cheese, and 1/2 teaspoon of oil.

Cover the Dutch oven and let the pasta stand for two minutes.  Toss the pasta after letting it stand to incorporate the sauce and cheese.  After this, let the pasta stand again.  Repeating this process will help the sauce adhere to the pasta and give it a good even coat.  Use the 1/4 cup of reserved pasta water if the sauce is too thick.  Stir in the basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, sprinkling cheese if desired, and enjoy!

The End Result:

The major difference between the two dishes is the "flavor melding" time.  Tonight's dish let the pasta adhere to the sauce, allowing it to soak in that great citrus flavor that lemon is known for.  Meanwhile, the previous dish added the sauce just at the very end and gave a great emphasis of lemon, but didn't quite have the depth of flavor that tonight's did.  Tonight's dish had a great base "sauce" - the starch from the pasta water plus the heavy cream gave the lemon something to stick to without being too overpowering.  The previous dish, however, had an oil and lemon juice base "sauce" and while this stuck to the pasta, it didn't quite have that soaking quality that tonight's did.

Overall, the spaghetti had, quite literally, melt in your mouth flavor.  The amount of lemon seemed somewhat subtle, but that's not always a bad thing. Letting those flavors sit and soak, really helped to give it a great lemon flavor without it being too overpowering.  This is definitely one of those 'supper in a flash' meals, without a lot of fuss or hassle.  A great dish to add to any weeknight rotation!

Join us tomorrow as Tyler tackles another quick and easy weeknight meal.  Until then,


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