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From America’s Test Kitchen Season 12: Vegetarian Pasta Night



Unaccustomed to the spotlight, lemon can turn temperamental in this quick-hit Italian classic—unless you provide it with the perfect costars. We wanted a dish bursting with bright, bracing lemon flavor, moistened with just enough fruity olive oil to coat each delicate strand. Starting with the lemon flavor, we found the window for the right amount of juice per pound of pasta was extremely small, and if we leaned more to either side, the lemon flavor became either too tart or barely noticeable. To boost the lemon’s power without extra acidity, we added some grated zest to the sauce. As for the base of the sauce, we relied on an olive oil–cream sauce—the cream neutralized some of the acids in the juice while augmenting the oils responsible for the fruity, floral notes.

Serves 4 to 6

 Let the dish rest briefly before serving so the flavors develop and the sauce thickens.

  • Table salt
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated zest and 1/4 cup juice from 3 lemons
  • 1 ounce finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup), plus more for serving
  • Ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons shredded fresh basil leaves
  1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta to boiling water; cook, stirring frequently, until al dente. Reserve 1¾ cups cooking water, drain pasta into colander, and set aside.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add shallot and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook until shallot is softened, about 2 minutes. Whisk 1 1/2 cups of reserved pasta cooking water and cream into pot; bring to simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Remove pot from heat, return pasta, and stir until coated. Stir in remaining 3 tablespoons oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, cheese, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
  3. Cover and let pasta stand 2 minutes, tossing frequently and adjusting consistency with remaining 1/4 cup reserved pasta water if necessary. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, drizzling individual portions with oil and sprinkling with cheese.