by Judy Kim
Caramelized Lemon Spaghetti with Feta, Parmesan and Basil
Yield: 4 Servings
Spring WAS in the air and that damn Winter chill is back, hopefully only temporarily. Either way, I'm going to will Spring to come back with this quick weeknight dinner. I should lead with something more positive, but honestly lemon pasta usually bores me, but THIS has caramelized lemons that creates a fast delicious citrusy sauce. Definition of not boring. Oh so light and oh so refreshing. And wait for it, ding ding ding, it's a one pot meal. Winner! (Note to self, always sear lemons or grill them, my favorite trick lately and if meyer lemons area available, that is best type.)
Oddly, I'm not a huge fan of feta, so I have no idea how I came up with this, but trust me, this works. All I know is tangy feta + salty parm = heaven. I wanted to top it with more cheese and found that a fine crumble of feta worked best, the small bits didn't overpower the whole dish. But don't let me stop you from an avalanche of feta if you like. A quick word about basil. It is a tricky little herb. It bruises easily so use a sharp knife, or tear it into pieces by hand. I prefer basil chiffonade vs chopped. The fine little ribbons have a nice texture. Pay attention, this is important... toss it basil into the pasta at the very last second. No one wants brown basil.
1 pound spaghetti
2 lemons (preferably meyer lemons)
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper chili flakes
1 tablespoon lemon zest
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup finely crumbled feta
1 cup fresh basil, chiffonade
Flaky sea salt
Bring an 8 quart stock pot of water to a boil and generously season with salt. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Stir pasta well while cooking to prevent it from sticking. Reserve 1 cup pasta water and drain pasta.
Return pot to stove over medium-high heat. Zest 1 tablespoon lemon and set aside. Cut lemons in half width wise and remove any seeds that are loose. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil and place lemons cut side down. Sear lemons until they have a golden brown color and lemon has released their natural sugars, about 3 minutes and remove. Add butter, garlic and red pepper chili flakes; using a wooden spoon scrape bottom of pan to loosen caramelized lemon. Sauté until garlic has softened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add lemon zest, juice of 2 lemons, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, stock and stir well.
Combine pasta with the garlic lemon mixture. Mix in half of the parmesan and feta cheese. If the pasta seems dry or you would like more of a sauce slowly add reserved pasta water until desired consistency. Just before serving mix in half of the chopped basil.
Transfer pasta to a platter and top with remaining parmesan, feta, basil and sprinkle of sea salt. Optional to add more red pepper chili flakes and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately.
Note: Chiffonade and toss basil with pasta just before serving.