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Lemony pasta is fast and fresh

Recipe: No butter or cream in flavorful side dish

Light, flavorful and fast: Lemon pasta, made here with fresh linguine.

Light, flavorful and fast: Lemon pasta, made here with fresh linguine.

Kathy Morrison

Ingredients for the pasta dish gather on a counter
A tart lemon and a Meyer are the stars here.

Anything bright and fresh is welcome these days, as winter drags into its last weeks. I found this lively citrus pasta dish while looking for yet another way to use my lemon horde.

Made without cream or butter, the pasta beautifully complements a main such as grilled fish, crab cakes or baked chicken. But I could see it as an excellent vegetarian main course -- or vegan if you leave out the Parmesan cheese.

I recommend using fresh linguine (found in the refrigerated case at grocery stores) but it also will work with dried pasta such as angel hair or thin spaghetti. The fresh packages are usually 9 ounces, not 12, so either use part of a second package, or just cook the one package -- the sauce generally will not have to be adjusted.

I've made this dish using just Meyer lemons, but I prefer the blend of zest from one Meyer lemon and one tart lemon. For juice I used the golden Meyer. And don't skimp on the garlic or the parsley. They both add depth to the sauce.

One more note: This recipe moves quickly once you start cooking, so it's important to have everything grated, chopped, etc., ahead of time and at hand.

Fresh lemon pasta

Serve 4 as a side dish or 2 as a main


Two lemon halves and a pile of chopped parsley
That Meyer lemon is a beautiful orange-gold.

9 to 12 ounces long pasta, either fresh or dried (linguine seems to work best)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons good olive oil

6 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste

Zest from 2 medium to large lemons (about 2 tablespoons), Meyers or tart or both

Juice from the larger lemon, about 1/4 cup 

1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving


Put a 4-quart pot of water on to boil for the pasta. When it starts boiling, add a dash of salt, and the pasta. If it's fresh, it will cook quickly, so be prepared. Cook pasta to al dente doneness, and save out 1 cup of cooking water before draining the pasta gently and setting it aside. 

Linguine in a saute pan
A spatula and pasta spoon help when tossing pasta.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil on medium heat, then add the minced garlic and the red pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant, stirring, no more than 1 minute. Add the lemon juice and 1/4 cup reserved pasta water, then add the cooked pasta and toss, coating the pasta.

Remove the skillet from the heat and add the parsley and lemon zest to the pasta, tossing to distribute well. Add the Parmesan and, if needed, more pasta water to get the strands well-coated. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve immediately with more Parmesan and an optional drizzle of olive oil.

Here are a few more of our citrus-with-pasta recipes:

Chill out with lemony pasta salad

Lemon plus herbs plus pasta = delicious

Pasta with prosciutto and orange


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Sept. 24:

This week our weather will be just right for fall gardening. What are you waiting for?

* Now is the time to plant for fall. The warm soil will get these veggies off to a fast start.

* Keep harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons and eggplant. Tomatoes may ripen faster off the vine and sitting on the kitchen counter.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Fertilize deciduous fruit trees.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as well as lettuce seedlings.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials. That includes bearded iris; if they haven’t bloomed in three years, it’s time to dig them up and divide their rhizomes.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with “eyes” about an inch below the soil surface.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

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