Tiny journeys in my kitchen (#3): Mediterranean simplicity (pasta al limone)
|February 28, 2011||Posted by ameliaps under easy, fast, journeys, lemon, pasta and grains, simple, vegetarian|
Whenever I go back to Italy, I return with a bag full of memories, a few fresh lemons from Sorrento, some well aged Parmigiano-Reggiano…and a good reminder: that life is best when lived simply and that food is best when cooked with few ingredients. The key words here are: simplicity and few. Wasn’t the Holy grail the simplest, less noticeable cup, the one with the least ornaments? Sometimes happiness sits right there in front of us…but we don’t see it, we’re too busy searching for the gold, looking for the shine, digging for diamonds. No matter how much we remind our self of this, it does tend to slip away from us. No matter how often I sit to reflect on this, I still make the same mistakes, over an over: I too chase the gold, I too never sit still, I too am often too busy to just “be”.
This past January, when I returned from my recent trip to Italy, I told myself that I would try to enjoy more simple meals: faster, fresher, easier, with a focus on one or two -very- fresh ingredients (rather than cook from the pantry or from ingredients purchased days before). One of the most surprisingly flavorful 5 minute dinners that fits this philosophy is “fettuccine al limone”.It is fragrant and aromatic, lusciously creamy, bright and cheery, gorgeous, super-fast, elegant, and yes…very very addictive! You can serve it on its own, or before, during or after another course, such as fish (broiled grouper? sole Meunier?) or shellfish (grilled shrimp or langoustines? sauteed scallops?). The flavors will transport you directly to the Amalfi coast, one sunshiny summer day.
I have some amazing friends that live in Bermuda, who brought back seeds of the Sorrento lemons so that they could plant a piece of sunshine miles away and make this luscious pasta al limone on any given winter day. They have discovered a powerful secret.
Populations in the Mediterranean know instinctively that simple meals, with few ingredients (generally picked up at the market the same day of preparation) are also better for your health (statistics show).
And now, I have a secret to reveal: there is one other key ingredient that goes into each Mediterranean meal: communality… enjoying food with your family and friends actually increases your quality and enjoyment of life! It is best to spend at least an hour at the table to allow for the conversation to lead you to places of the mind you cannot predict and to allow for philosophical lucubrations, which in turn also burn many (brain) calories
Pasta al limone
1 lb fresh egg tagliolini, linguine or fettuccine (Buitoni works well… and it’s easy to find)
4-6 tbsp butter
1 cup fresh cream (but I have used milk, or half-and-half, equally successfully, to make it lighter)
Fresh ground white pepper, to taste
Fresh lemon zest from 2-3 untreated organic lemons
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus extra to finish
Salt, to taste
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add salt, once it boils.
In a large sauté pan, Melt the butter, then add the cream. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Add the white pepper and lemon zest, and reduce by about half. Remove from the heat and add the thyme. Add the pasta to the water and cook until al dente (actually, it’s ideal if you can undercook it, since it will continue cooking later – it should only take 2-3 minutes at most) and drain it, reserving some of the boiling water. Add the pasta to the lemon butter, and toss to coat over medium heat. Add the Parmigiano, a sprinkle of salt, and toss a few more seconds. If you see that the pasta is too sticky, loosen it up with some of the boiling water from the pasta. Serve with lemon zest curls, Parmigiano, and thyme, if you wish.