Meatless Monday–Spaghetti al Limone

Shortly after I graduated college, when I was living on my own for the first time, I decided I needed to learn how to cook.  I’d always helped my mom in the kitchen, so it’s not like I was clueless, but I definitely wasn’t confident in my abilities.  When my mom came to visit me in my teeny tiny first apartment, she brought me my very first very own cookbook, The All-New Joy of Cooking.  Among the first recipes I made was a spaghetti with a simple lemon sauce.  It was very good by my 22-year-old new cook standards.  I think I made it every week.

Fast forward to last week, and I saw this recipe on Courtney’s excellent blog, Cook Like a Champion.  It was reminiscent of the lemon spaghetti of my past, but with a more grown-up twist.  I knew I had to make it…and soon.

It was terrific.  It was full of bright lemon flavor but still hearty enough to make a satisfying meal.  As I sat down to eat, I couldn’t think of how different my life is from what I, as a 22-year-old new graduate thought it would be.  I couldn’t believe how much better my life has become.

spaghetti al limone

Spaghetti al Limone

seen on Cook Like a Champion

adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, January/February 2011


1 TBSP salt, plus more to taste
1 lb. spaghetti
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 TBSP)
1/4 c. heavy cream
2 tsp. lemon zest

1/4 c. lemon juice (from 3 lemons)
1 oz. finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 c.), plus more for serving
freshly-ground black pepper
2 TBSP fresh basil leaves, julienned


1.  In a large Dutch oven, bring four quarts of water to boil. Add 1 TBSP salt and pasta to water. Cook, stirring frequently, until pasta is al dente. Reserve 1 3/4 cups of pasta water, drain pasta and set aside.

2.  In the now-empty Dutch oven, heat 1 TBSP oil. Once hot, add shallot and 1/2 tsp. salt, cooking until shallot has softened, about two minutes. Whisk in 1 1/2 c. of the reserved pasta water and cream. Bring to a simmer and cook for two minutes. 

3.  Remove from heat and add pasta, tossing to coat. Stir in remaining 3 TBSP oil, lemon zest and juice, cheese and 1/2 tsp.  pepper.

4.  Cover and allow pasta to stand for about two minutes, tossing halfway through, so the sauce can thicken and pasta can absorb the sauce. If needed, add the remaining 1/4 c. pasta water to adjust the consistency of the sauce.  Salt and pepper to taste. 

5.  To serve, drizzle each individual portion with olive oil, top with additional Parmesan cheese, and sprinkle with basil.

two years ago: cilantro-coconut rice

three years ago: Meyer lemon buttermilk tarts

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  1. Shawnda
    April 11, 2011 / 1:07 pm

    I have this one bookmarked – can't wait to make it!

  2. katie
    April 11, 2011 / 1:44 pm

    This looks delicious, I remember cooking baked ziti after I graduated college and thinking I was a gourmet!

  3. That Girl
    April 11, 2011 / 4:58 pm

    I have been hearing about lemon pasta for years, and I still have never had it!

  4. Courtney
    April 12, 2011 / 12:24 am

    I'm so glad you enjoyed it! Happy one month anniversary! 🙂

  5. Anonymous
    May 21, 2011 / 11:26 pm

    I made your recipe exactly as written and it came out absolutely delicious. Who knew!! I would definitely make it again…so fresh and yummy tasting. Zina

  6. Kelsey
    July 5, 2011 / 3:42 am

    Zina, I'm so glad you liked it. Thank you for reading my blog and making one of the recipes. Cheers!

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